Why does OPPD need more power? How is load growth contributing to this issue?

    The 13-county OPPD service territory is experiencing unprecedented growth. This growth means an increasing load demand for electricity. OPPD anticipates load growth to be 100MW each year for the foreseeable future. In comparison, load growth was previously around 4 MW each year. To put this into perspective, 100MW a year is equivalent to the energy used by 65 metro-area high schools or medium-size hospitals. This growth requires reliable power, and to serve them we need to increase our generation capacity. Our new natural gas balancing facilities that are part of Power with Purpose (PwP) are part of the plan to address that growth, but the pace of growth means we will need more generation to meet regulatory requirements and demand. Regulations require capacity above the peak load demand. This requirement is set by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and will rise from the current 12% to 15% in coming years.

    When did you know you would need this generation?

    The need for near-term generation appeared in the E3 decarbonization feasibility studies but the exact timeline of the need wasn’t as clear. When we examined more data, it clarified the need and the timeline. Through our work with Power with Purpose, we have been able to use the existing SPP interconnection queue positions for projects, which – given the current backlog – aligns the process nicely with our timing needs.

    Will OPPD be able to continue to support future economic growth and development?

    OPPD leadership recognizes economic prosperity and growth are key to achieving well-being for citizens in our region and will continue to actively support economic development. As the region continues to grow, OPPD needs to support this growth by ensuring reliable power will continue to be available. Energy infrastructure, affordability and reliability are integral to economic development, including attracting new businesses, helping retain existing business customers and supporting expansion and development projects in our communities. Projects may experience longer timelines because of the industry-wide supply chain issues and the backlog in the interconnection request queue, and OPPD is working diligently through these complex regional and national issues.

    How much of this growth is driven by data centers?

    OPPD is seeing growth in all customer classes, including a sizable increase in data centers. Our service territory is thriving with new residents and businesses of all sizes being added all the time. Data centers are increasingly necessary to power our lives every day. Each time you save something to “the cloud,” buy something online or check social media, a data center is making that possible. We anticipate this trend of increasing load will continue as electricity becomes an even more integral part of people’s lives.

    Do you have enough power to serve your customers without adding costly generation?

    With the recent growth in our service territory, we need to add generation more quickly than anticipated to ensure reliability and maintain the required margin above the grid’s expected needs, in accordance with national regulatory requirements.

    Why must OPPD wait for an SPP study?

    SPP and all other regional transmission organizations must follow federal requirements for evaluation of new generation interconnection and generation retirement requests. The primary purpose for this is to give all generation requests equal access to the transmission system. The SPP Grid Interconnection study is performed to determine the potential need for additional transmission related to generation additions by SPP market participants. Standing Bear Lake and Turtle Creek stations may be subject to output limitations if they rely upon SPP’s interim interconnection process. This is true of all generation, both within SPP and throughout the country.

    Why does it cost so much to keep our place in the SPP queue?

    SPP’s request for money to “hold our place in line” is to eliminate developers or utilities who are not further along in their generation planning. Once you get to the phase OPPD is at, we must be serious about the project and the potential transmission upgrade needs paid for by all SPP members. Conversely, SPP needs to justify that expense to all members. In sum, they must pay for the impacts to the system.

    • OPPD has been working with SPP to improve this process.

    How will this decision impact your commitment to be a net-zero carbon producer by 2050?

    OPPD remains committed to being net-zero carbon by 2050. We are committed to getting there by taking a path that doesn’t compromise reliability and is consistent with our recent decarbonization study.

    What kind of generation will you propose?

    During the modeling and analysis process, OPPD looked at all types of generation and energy storage that were financially feasible for our customer-owners. At the May 2023 OPPD Board of Directors meeting, OPPD management presented a recommendation for additional generation totaling nearly 2.5 gigawatts (GW). This new capacity would include renewables, natural gas and battery technology resources.

    If you add more natural gas generation, how will that impact emissions?

    The recommendation aligns with the Pathways to Decarbonization findings in that new firm capacity additions are consistent with and an optimal part of a net-zero generation portfolio across a range of uncertainties. By including a diverse mix, the recommendation also aligns with the need for new, low-carbon resources including renewable energy, energy storage and community-wide energy efficiency.

    Where will new generation be built?

    Those details are yet to be developed. OPPD is committed to being transparent with our communities about decisions and to provide information and opportunities for feedback, including at OPPDCommunityConnect.com.

    Are you looking at small/modular nuclear?

    OPPD has entered into a study with Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) around small/modular nuclear generation siting. The study will examine potentially feasible sites for the resource in the state.

    Will you ever explore using hydrogen for power generation?

    The new natural gas facilities currently under construction are capable of transitioning to hydrogen generation. OPPD is continuing to monitor the financial feasibility of the resource.

    Would this have happened if you hadn’t closed Fort Calhoun Station?

    The decision to cease operations at Fort Calhoun Station (FCS) was based on economics due to FCS being the smallest utility-scale commercial reactor in the United States. The assets replacing FCS are modern and have different operating capabilities and cost less to operate for our customer-owners.

    How will this impact rates?

    This recommendation could require a capital investment of more than $2 billion in OPPD’s infrastructure. It could also require rate increases in the future. While exact numbers are yet to be determined, increases could range from 2.5 to 3% each year from 2027 to 2030, totaling 10-11% by 2030.