Letter to the Editor

The multi-purpose role of public power

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

When you work in an industry like public power, it is easy to understand the adage, “History repeats itself.”

More than 125 years after the City of Crete began lighting its streets in 1887, using direct current generated by a turbine at a dam of the Big Blue River, Central City became the first city to generate electricity with a community solar array.

In the next few years, NPPD expects to take hydrogen, as the byproduct of a unique manufacturing process, and use it to generate carbon-free electricity. Monolith Materials, the company NPPD is working with for this innovative solution, plans to initially employ 40-50 people and approximately 100 people when the facility expands in the Hallam area. The initiative has characteristics of the visionary canal projects constructed during the Depression era, which diverted water off the Platte River system for irrigation, jobs, and hydropower.

The hydropower projects of the 1930s were promoted, in part, by key leaders, such as U.S. Senator George W. Norris of McCook, who believed public power was the best model for ensuring all consumers received electricity, and he advocated using readily available resources, like water. Wind energy is also a renewable resource, yet NPPD’s responsibility is to ensure customers have electricity whenever they need it, and we will draw upon our other resources, like nuclear and coal, to make sure we deliver.

I can’t compare myself to Sen. Norris, but as President and CEO of NPPD, I do share some of his perspective and vision about projects that benefit the state. For instance, he viewed a river valley in terms of its “… multipurpose usage – to provide flood control, irrigation, electricity to rural customers, recreational opportunities, navigations, and more.”

NPPD exists to serve our customers and our business decisions replicate the multi-use benefit Norris believed in. We support communities pursing solar projects which have environmental and local benefits. We are pursuing the use of electricity as a "transportation fuel” and are researching versatile charging stations that can be used by more than one model of car. And we are finding more convenient and mobile ways to do business with NPPD, ultimately reducing costs.

NPPD’s promise is to “enhance the quality of life in Nebraska, now and in the future.” We don’t do it for money, because public power is not-for-profit. We don’t do it for fame, because even in doing the right thing, someone will tell us it is wrong. But we will always work to ensure Nebraskans receive safe, reliable, low-cost and sustainable electricity needed to power the state’s good life.

Resource: “George W Norris: A Reflective View,” an article biographer Richard Lowitt presented to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Lowitt in 2013

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