Over the last several weeks, my family “made” me binge watch the popular Netflix series, Stranger Things – a horror/drama show set in small-town America in the early 1980s. Talk about nostalgia. It brought me back to my ‘70s and ‘80s upbringing, resurrecting unsettling thoughts of leisure suits, shaggy hair and bell bottoms.
While I may not want to repeat the fashion choices of my youth, the show helped me recall some great memories. It also got me thinking about trends.
I view trends as recognizable patterns – something that through careful observation, provides an indication or direction of things to come. This could be fashion, sports, a global pandemic or societal behaviors. In NPPD’s case, it could revolve around customer preferences or industry progressions. Being aware of when these patterns start to develop helps us be proactive in managing them in meaningful ways.
Since NPPD’s inception, we have played an essential role in providing critical electric energy and services that are fundamental to the quality of life and economic stability we enjoy. Disregarding societal and customer trends would mean imperiling our mission to safely generate and deliver reliable, low cost, sustainable energy and related services, while providing outstanding customer service. It would be a fast track to irrelevancy.
Charles Darwin was attributed as saying, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change.”
The world is experiencing an incredible pace of change. To be successful, we can – and must – not only spot trends but understand their role in shaping our future.
Within our society today, we’re seeing a growing desire for cleaner generation sources. Consumers and businesses are requesting it, and environmental regulations and legislation are trending toward the path of “decarbonization.” You can see this playing out most visibly as corporate giants like Walmart, Amazon or Visa strive for zero net carbon goals. In turn, utilities like NPPD have been developing their own goals to reduce their carbon impact and business risk related to carbon emissions.
We must ask ourselves the tough question: Amid this trend toward cleaner generation resources, how do we continue to serve customers without compromising cost or reliability?
I believe a broad mix of generation resources fits the bill. Based on a two-year rolling average from 2018 and 2019, 61% of the electricity we provide to our customers is carbon-free thanks to powerhouses like nuclear and green energy sources like solar, hydropower and wind. We’re participating in carbon capture and sequestration studies funded in part through a competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. And this year, we were granted the authority to pursue the development of innovative carbon-free and carbon-neutral fuels. It speaks to our willingness to not just listen to and accommodate customer expectations for low-cost, reliable and sustainable energy sources, but also to take it upon ourselves to move toward further reducing our carbon footprint and adapting to this growing trend.
We know true sustainability means carefully balancing positive environmental, economic and societal outcomes. This is something that aligns well with national efforts toward efficient electrification. Embracing energy efficiency incentives, community solar projects or the buildout of electric vehicle infrastructure helps further our advances toward a low-carbon future. Even better, it allows us to serve electric consumers in new and beneficial ways and work with them to make even smarter energy choices.
Technology has and will continue to play a huge role. We are using it to double down on streamlined operations that provide us with a competitive edge and add even more value and innovative solutions to our customers’ energy use and our existing assets. As we work to decarbonize our generation mix, new and emerging technologies like carbon capture and sequestration, alternative fuel sources or battery storage will lead us into the future.
NPPD is halfway through celebrating its 50th anniversary, and I wish for continued progress throughout the next 50 years. Our relevance will depend on our ongoing focus on excellence and maintaining outstanding performance in all areas of business. It means delivering on safety, reliability, cost and customer service every hour of the day and month of the year.
Doing so will establish NPPD as a trendsetter in generating electricity the right way with great results. If we don’t, we could easily become a relic of the past. And, while I’m ok with doing away with some of the lesser fashion trends of the ‘70s, the lasting value of public power and the great things it can do for Nebraska for years to come should stand the test of time.