Planners doing best to predict, deal with electrical demand

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sen. George W. Norris was known as the Father of the Tennessee Valley Authority, but the efforts of McCook's most famous favorite son are still making themselves felt in his home state through the workings of the Unicameral and the delivery of electricity to rural Nebraska.

While farmers are fond of poking fun at city cousins who are ignorant of food production, both groups take electricity for granted when they flip on the lights or plug in their iPad for charging.

The Nebraska Public Power District will shed some light on the situation with an open house Friday, 9 a.m. to noon at the McCook Public Power District offices, 1510 N. Highway 83, in McCook. That's an NPPD meeting at the MPPD office, just to be clear.

NPPD added the McCook meeting to its "Behind the Outlet" series to seek input on important, long-term questions:

Will coal-fired and nuclear power generation facilities remain NPPD's low-cost mainstay for generating electricity? How much renewable energy is on the horizon? Which environmental regulations will have the greatest impact on consumers in terms of cost and quality of life?

Yes, solar and wind power are inviting, but at what cost?

Nuclear power is "clean," but the potential for disaster was illustrated by last year's tsunami in Japan. Omaha Public Power District is struggling to get its Fort Calhoun plant back on line after a fire broke out while it was shut down for routine maintenance, and Missouri River flooding complicated the process as well.

The NPPD board, customers and experts spent the last eight months analyzing costs and benefits associated with installing additional environmental equipment at NPPD's coal-fired facilities, as well as increasing the amount of power generated at Cooper Nuclear Station.

No final decision will be made until 2013, but preliminary results of the study call for continuing to generate some electricity using coal, investing in additional long-term emission control equipment, and increasing the power generated using nuclear fuel.

"NPPD modeled thousands of scenarios and every resource plan included up to 20 percent energy efficiency and renewable energy resources," said NPPD President and CEO Pat Pope.

We'd like to see more renewable energy in the mix, but it's hard to fault NPPD's strategy.

According to electricchoice.com, Nebraska has one of the lowest rates in the nation, 7.52 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2010 for residential retail electricity, compared to a U.S. average of 11.53 cents as well as lower than any adjoining state -- including Wyoming, which provides much of the coal to feed Nebraska generating plants.

No one knows exactly what the future will hold, but NPPD officials are doing their best to provide electricity in the amount and quantity we will need in 20 years.

If you would like to provide input, Friday's open house is an opportunity. Or, you can submit feedback at GOAinput@nppd.com by visiting www.nppd.com/behindtheoutlet.

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