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OTOC Leaders proposed 4 Energy Goals to OPPD Board

May 15th, 2014

Fifteen OTOC leaders attended the May 15 OPPD Board meeting and presented OTOC’s response to 5 proposed “Resource Options” that OPPD staff has developed for the Board to consider. The OPPD Board will be making a decision this summer about what types of fuel OPPD will use to generate electricity for this region.  OTOC leaders Elaine Wells, Jeanne Schuler, Mary Spurgeon and Laurie Gift presented the following 4 Goals and Testimony to the Board.

Members of the OPPD Board:

Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) is grateful for the opportunity to express to you both our appreciation and our concerns. Many of us have participated in the Stakeholders’ Process at open houses or via the online survey. OTOC is a coalition of 25 congregations, religious communities and other organizations which work together to improve living and working conditions for all residents of the metro area. Recently many Omaha area residents have joined together to promote environmental sustainability. Our faith traditions urge us to be good stewards of creation, and to speak up for the common good of all our neighbors and even future generations.

Last month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the 5th Assessment Report, warning that greenhouse emissions must be reduced by 40% to 70% by 2050 in order to keep global warming to non-catastrophic levels. Of course, shifts in national government policies will be required–but in the mean time OPPD’s decisions can make a huge impact locally. Delaying proactive measures will increase pollution, and make it even more difficult to reach the necessary goals. After reviewing OPPD’s five proposed “Resource Options, ” OTOC asks that the OPPD Board establish the following goals:

 Goal One: Actively promote conservation and energy efficiency by residential and commercial customers in order to reduce energy demand by 1% per year

Creighton University professor John Schalles, Ph.D, stated in 2011 that 43% of the energy we produce is wasted, so conservation and energy efficiency would be the most economical way to meet the minimum goals recommended by IPCC. Gallup polls since 2001 show that Americans have consistently favored conservation over increased production, and OPPD customers would reap the benefits both directly and indirectly.

OTOC is  pleased that OPPD has instituted the AC Management Program, especially since that approach has already decreased energy consumption by a significant percentage. OTOC’s Environmental Sustainability Team would like to work with OPPD to encourage members of our congregations to sign up for this excellent program to reduce peak demand. OTOC asks OPPD to continue developing efficiency and conservation programs to reduce demand for electricity.

Goal Two: Continue to promote and develop renewable energy sources, especially wind and solar, so that renewable sources are at least 33% of OPPD’s energy mix by 2018 and every year after.

OTOC thanks you for approving more energy production from wind. We are truly encouraged to see that 33% of OPPD’s retail sales will come from renewable energy sources by 2018. Yet while surrounding states, especially Iowa, are maximizing their wind potential, Nebraska still ranks 25th in wind development even though it is the 4th windiest state.

Nebraska is also the 10th sunniest state, and our growing solar industry is already providing income that will remain in our state, rather than going to Wyoming for coal purchases. With the cost of wind and solar production decreasing and becoming competitive with fossil fuels, it makes economic sense to be a leader in green energy. By issuing a Request for Proposals for utility-scale solar energy supplies, OPPD would enable private developers to receive federal tax credits that are available through 2016. Perhaps the most obvious reason to promote solar energy is that it peaks during the hot summer days, at the same time when OPPD’s energy demand also peaks.

Goal Three:  Use natural gas only as a means of meeting peak demand, not as a means to generate base load.

“Natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than coal, so substituting natural gas for coal should improve the air quality in places like North Omaha or Nebraska City by reducing sulfur dioxide, Mercury, heavy metals and other pollutants linked to asthma, heart disease and other illnesses. However, natural gas is a fossil fuel, so burning it releases carbon dioxide linked to climate change. Natural gas prices have historically been more volatile than delivered coal, and gas prices have been far more volatile than the price of wind or solar energy (where the fuel is free).

To minimize climate gas pollution and minimize the risk to OPPD customer-owners of future electricity costs, OPPD should focus the use of natural gas on times of peak demand where intermittent sources like wind and solar are unable to meet the full demand.”

Goal Four: Stop burning coal at the North Omaha plant as quickly as possible.

The World Health Organization recently stated that air pollution is the world’s #1 health problem. According to the Omaha Asthma Alliance, parts of Omaha have some of the highest asthma rates in the country, with our asthma hospitalization rate being nearly double the national average! In Douglas County the highest average asthma rates are among citizens who live east of 42nd Street, near the coal-fired power plant in north Omaha. Therefore, we strongly recommend retiring the coal burning units in this old plant as soon as possible, rather than spending the $1.5 BILLION necessary to retrofit it and the Nebraska City coal-fired plant.

As you know, many more excellent ideas are outlined in “Powering Our Future: a Clean Energy Plan for Omaha Public Power District,” the proposal created by collaboration between several local organizations and individuals with expertise in efficiency and renewable energy. We urge you to implement as many of these suggestions as feasible, especially “cogeneration” to use waste heat from industries to produce electricity, and to use waste heat from power plants to heat or cool buildings.

In summary, OTOC supports your ongoing efforts in conservation and green energy production, and we ask you to reduce our reliance on coal and gas a quickly as possible.

Sincerely,

Omaha Together One Community

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