Community Engagement

Nebraska’s North Central Public Power District Focuses On Reliability, Keeps Eye On Supply Chain

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In a recent Q&A with Public Power Current, Doyle Hazen, General Manager and CEO of Nebraska public power utility North Central Public Power District (NCPPD) detailed how the utility’s aggressive approach to vegetation management has bolstered reliability, outlined how NCPPD benefits from its relationship with the Nebraska Public Power District and described how NCPPD has taken a proactive approach when it comes to addressing supply chain issues.

Hazen formerly served as the Manager of Finance and Administration at NCPPD for 24 years and has been the CEO and General Manager since July 2019. 

“All of the functions that I have work towards the first sentence in my job description, ‘Responsible for ensuring that all consumers within service area desiring electric service are provided a safe, ample and reliable supply of electricity at the lowest cost consistent with the highest standards of service and sound business practices,’” he noted.

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NCPPD serves over 6,670 customers in parts of Knox, Antelope, Pierce and Holt Counties. It also maintains 1,635 miles of overhead distribution lines and 49 miles of underground lines.

Tree Maintenance And Reliability

The November-December 2021 issue of NCPPD’s newsletter noted that the utility has been focusing on tree maintenance for reliability purposes. 

Hazen noted that in the early 2000s, NCPPD decided to take an aggressive approach to vegetation management. Right of ways over the whole district were clear cut as much as possible and trimmed with customer approval. 

“Once that was completed, we have actively used a vegetation management program that includes spraying right of ways and cutting and trimming trees as needed,” he said.

“Although this program sounds relatively simple it has a large impact on the reliability of the system. Of course, we continue to improve the system to enhance reliability and resilience but the vegetation management of the system is a very important aspect of our reliability.”

Relationship With Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD)

NPPD is NCPPD’s wholesale supplier of electricity.

“We work with NPPD in coordinating the service to our system through NPPD owned transmission.  NPPD also has economic development services that we can access as a NPPD customer,” Hazen said.

“NCPPD benefits from our NPPD relationship by accessing the generation and transmission assets that our ratepayers and all of the other ratepayers in Nebraska have paid for over life of those assets,” he noted.

Also, NPPD provides energy efficiency incentives through the EnergyWise program. “These incentives are derived from our wholesale rates and provided back to NPPD’s wholesale partners,” Hazen said.

EnergyWise is an energy efficiency program that provides incentives to improve energy efficiency in support of homeowners, businesses and ag producers. 

“For example, incentives are provided for Smart Thermostats, air source and ground source heat pumps, mini-split heat pumps, variable frequency drive irrigation motors and induction cooktops. These are only a sampling of the incentives available,” Hazen said.

Changes to the program for 2022 are the addition of the incentive for inductive cooktops, the increase from 10 percent to 20 percent incentive for electric lawnmowers and the splitting of incentives for electric vehicles and their chargers, he noted.

Supply Chain

Hazen was also asked to discuss how NCPPD’s operations department is responding to nationwide supply chain disruptions -- specifically, for electric utility equipment.

“NCPPD has been monitoring the supply chain and the material markets through our relationships with our vendors,” he said. 

“We started ordering additional material and special equipment (transformers and reclosures) in late 2021. Proactively, we have been ordering into 2023 to stay ahead of our normal maintenance requirements, our work plan projects and expected growth of our system,” Hazen noted.

“The relationships we have with our vendors and other service providers are key in NCPPD’s ability to provide services and build projects on time. By knowing early where the market was going with our purchases both in price and availability, NCPPD was able to meet its customers’ needs. Although there is no guarantee of continued supply in any number of items, NCPPD monitors supply on a monthly, weekly and daily basis,” he said.

Rate Reduction

Meanwhile, in late 2021, NCPPD’s board approved new rates that will provide for a seven percent reduction in overall rates. This reduction may vary three percent between rate classes, but as a whole, the rates will be reduced by seven percent.

NCPPD notes on its website that it continues to evaluate and adjust its operations to provide the best reliability while maintaining an excellent level of value for its customers.

For the second year in a row, the Board of Directors also passed through a .006196/kWh Power Cost Adjustment (PCA) credit. The PCA is a credit NCPPD receives from NPPD.