News Releases

NPPD sets dates for eight public hearings on proposed R-Project transmission line

October 17, 2014

Columbus, Neb. – A series of eight public hearings on Nebraska Public Power District’s R-Project 345,000-Volt Transmission Line are scheduled to be held during the first two weeks of November. The hearings will be held in eight counties where the line route has been selected, with each meeting having a one-hour open house prior to the formal hearing.

NPPD plans to construct approximately 220 miles of transmission line from the District’s Gerald Gentleman Station, south of Sutherland, to a new substation to be constructed in Holt County. Besides the new substation in Holt County, a new substation will also be built at a location near Thedford. NPPD has not determined a final line route for the project.

This new transmission line will help enhance operation of NPPD’s electric transmission system, relieve congestion from existing lines within the transmission system, and provide additional opportunities for development of renewable energy projects.

The public hearings will be held at various locations November 4, 6, 10, and 12. The following schedule has been shared with landowners along the final route:

Tuesday, November 4 – Logan County Fairgrounds, 71 Highway 83, Stapleton; open house from noon to 1 p.m.; public hearing from 1 to 3 p.m.

Tuesday, November 4 – Holiday Inn Express, 300 Frontage Road, North Platte; open house from 6 to 7 p.m.; public hearing from 7 to 9 p.m.

Thursday, November 6 – Thomas County Fairgrounds, 83861 Highway 83, Thedford; open house from noon to 1 p.m.; public hearing from 1 to 3 p.m.

Thursday, November 6 – Brewster Community Center, 250 Garfield Ave., Brewster; open house from 6 to 7 p.m.; public hearing from 7 to 9 p.m.

Monday, November 10  American legion, 657 G Street, Burwell; open house from noon to 1 p.m.; public hearing from 1 to 3 p.m.

Monday, November 10 – Loup County Community Center, 406 4th Street, Taylor; open house from 6 to 7 p.m.; public hearing from 7 to 9 p.m.

Wednesday, November 12 – Wheeler Central High School (new gymnasium), 214 5th Street, Bartlett; open house from noon to 1 p.m.; public hearing from 1 to 3 p.m.

Wednesday, November 12 – Chambers Community Center, 107 E. Main Street, Chambers; open house from 6 to 7 p.m.; public hearing from 7 to 9 p.m.

The public hearing, required under Nebraska statutes, are conducted to present the proposed transmission project. A hearing officer will facilitate the hearing and a court reporter will be used to document all presentations by Nebraska Public Power District and landowner comments and questions.

The first part of the public hearing consists of presentations on the project by Nebraska Public Power District and its engineering consulting firm, Power Engineers. The topics will include the need for the project, engineering aspects, line route selection, and the easement acquisition process. Once that portion of the hearing is completed, the public will have an opportunity to speak.

Any individual can supply testimony or ask questions about the line project in two ways. One way is for the individual to speak from the podium, state their name and county where the property is located, and either present information that they feel is needed about the project, or ask questions about the project. Comment cards will also be available for landowners who prefer not to speak at the podium, but desire to make a statement or ask a question. The comment or question will be read aloud during the hearing.

Prior to each formal public hearing, NPPD will host a one hour open house similar to the previous three rounds that have been held since January of 2013. Again, this will be an opportunity for the public to provide additional information regarding their property or ask specific questions about the project. NPPD representatives will also be available following the public hearing to meet with landowners.

Once the public hearings have ended, a 30-day comment period begins and will conclude December 12, 2014. Shortly after that, NPPD will announce the final line route and begin meeting with landowners for right-of-entry to conduct activities on the property. The initial activities include conducting surveys of proposed easement areas and proceeding with appraisal work. After engineering is completed, right-of-way agents will meet with landowners to fully explain the project as it relates to their specific property and explain terms and conditions of the easement needed for the line. NPPD strives for fair and respectful treatment of affected landowners during the entire process.

(Editor’s Note: Additional information on the R-Project including newsletters and a map of the proposed and alternative routes can be found at www.nppd.com/rproject.)

When are rates set?
NPPD rates are reviewed annually, and any proposed rate changes are normally approved during NPPD’s December Board of Directors Meeting.

Will my bill be higher this month because of the cold weather and rolling outages?
Most NPPD customers can expect to see a higher monthly electricity bill this month due to the recent cold weather event which caused customers to have higher usage.  A higher bill would not be the result of a rate increase however because the rates did not change.

Does my NPPD rate change throughout the year?
When proposing a rate change, NPPD typically sets and approves rates during the December Board of Directors Meeting. The rates that are approved go into effect February 1 of the next year.

The only other time NPPD’s rates change during the year is when the higher summer rates automatically go into effect for the months of June through September. Aside from this, any increase or decrease in your bill is likely tied to increased energy usage during severe cold or hot weather.

NPPD retail rates have remained steady with no overall increase in eight years.

How will February’s cold temperatures and rolling outages impact my rates in future years?
The financial impact of the most recent historic polar vortex events as it relates to rates are unclear at the present time. Many factors, including future weather impacts, load growth, and the cost to generate and deliver electricity will impact NPPD’s financial position and rates.

How will cold temperatures and rolling outages impact my monthly bill?
Simply put, if you use more electricity than “normal” you will have a higher bill. Rates have not changed. Think of it as a consistently priced fuel, that never fluctuates in price per gallon. If you need to fill up more often, it will require a larger amount of product, and as a result you have higher costs.

Does it take more energy and cost more to lower my thermostat now, only to raise it later to regain warmth?
This is a myth that many have heard for years. Contrary to belief, your system will operate for longer periods to recover and heat pump systems may switch to supplemental or auxiliary heat, but overall energy use is reduced if the setback occurs over at least a few hours. 

NPPD operators at our control center handle increases and decreases in load and train for these situations. The operators refer to this as the Cold Load Effect. When customers are returned to service from a long outage, there can be a sharp increase in electricity usage that must be accounted for. As motors begin to start when the load is energized and more equipment powers on than was previously when the customer was interrupted. This means, when there are several customers experiencing an outage at the same time, operators need to consider the load when the circuit is restored can be higher than when it was interrupted. The longer a circuit is interrupted, the more pronounced the Cold Load Effect will be.

In the case of this most recent event, homes were using heat so consistently during the day and the interruptions were short enough that there was no significant change in electricity usage when one circuit was brought back online and another was turned off. During the rolling blackouts, when one group of customers was experiencing an outage, a new set of customers would betaken offline before the first group was returned to service. This helped ensure that there were no spikes in electricity usage that would have a negative impact on the generation and load balance. 

Who can I contact for assistance with payment arrangements for my NPPD bill, or information on assistance agencies?
Payment arrangements can be arranged by contacting NPPD at 1-877-ASK-NPPD.

Those in need should also contact NPPD at the above listed number for more information and a listing of energy assistance from local agencies.

What is a rolling blackout outage?
Rolling blackouts, also known as rotating outages, are controlled, temporary interruptions of the electrical service directed by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). These outages can occur when electricity generating resources cannot meet the electricity demand in the region. NPPD and others must reduce demand in an amount directed by SPP and act upon this within minutes.

When is a rolling blackout necessary?
Rolling blackouts are necessary as a last resort to maintain the reliability of the electrical grid system. SPP directs rotating outages when electricity generating resources cannot meet the electrical demand in the region. They rotate or roll to different systems and areas so we can all absorb a short outage at different times versus a long outage for one specific area.

The recent situation was extraordinary and an unprecedented chain of events, including historic low temperatures across the entire SPP footprint, lack of wind generation, reduced amounts of natural gas because of frozen wells and sky rocking natural gas prices. A situation never seen before in this region since SPP was founded.

Why was there little notice before power was shut off to some customers?
Just like many of our retail and wholesale customers, NPPD received the emergency notices from SPP with little warning, requiring us to load shed with just a few minutes to act.

NPPD did our best in this emergent situation to communicate not only to our large industrial and residential retail customers, but also with as many wholesale customers as we could. This was done with a press release, via emails, regularly scheduled wholesale customer meetings throughout the event, and using social media. Unfortunately, with the short timeframe not all customers were able to be reached before some outages began.

We continue to evaluate and review the events of this situation and will look for ways to learn and improve our process, should it ever be needed again.

Is there an easy way to track my energy usage?
Tracking your energy usage can easily be done by downloading NPPD’s mobile application, “NPPD On The Go!”. Download by searching “NPPD” in the Google Play or Apple App store. Then click “Register” and have your account number, service address zip code, and phone number ready. Finally complete the account information.

What are the benefits of using “NPPD On The Go!”?

  • Fast, easy and secure way to view and pay your bill.
  • View monthly usage and comparison to previous usage.
  • Monitor active outages and report unexpected outages.
  • Direct access to customer support through your mobile device.
  • Request new service or stop current service.
  • Sign up for outage, billing, and usage notifications.

Who and what is Southwest Power Pool (SPP)?
NPPD is a member of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), a non-profit regional transmission organization in the central part of the United States. SPP is mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure customers in the region receive reliable power, adequate transmission infrastructure and competitively priced electricity. SPP and its members coordinate the flow of electricity across more than 65,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines spanning 14 states.

Why is it important to have a diverse energy mix?
NPPD believes a diverse generation mix serves our customers best. We use wind -- when it is available. We use coal -- which is reliable and helps keep electric rates low. We use water -- one of the oldest forms of renewable energy. We use nuclear -- which offers emission-free, around-the-clock power. We use natural gas -- to complement the portfolio.

NPPD’s diverse energy generation mix helps keep our electricity reliable and keep rates as low as possible.

Public power, as it always does, answered the call to help protect the bulk electric system which serves the central portion of the country and is part of the larger Eastern Interconnect. The system requires real-time balancing of generation and load. In doing so, we also protected our customers from more detrimental, long-term blackouts.

All of NPPD’s plants were available to SPP during this emergency event. They performed as beautifully during the emergency as our NPPD teammates who worked around the clock to manage the safety, health and financial risk for our customers.