Omaha Public Power board to vote on less coal at Dec. 18 meeting

The Board of Directors of the Omaha Public Power District will be asked at its Dec. 18 meeting to approve a plan from staff that includes the shutdown of some coal-fired capacity to meet clean-air needs.

Through a several month process earlier this year, OPPD reached out to customers in public meetings, focus groups and a quantitative survey. Through the process, it narrowed a wide variety of options to five, each of which improved air emissions with affordable cost increases. Those options were presented to the OPPD Board of Directors in May. The board asked managers to include the latest information on how to help customers reduce their use of electricity, especially at peak times.

OPPD managers then combined that information into three options and recommended one that will cut emission levels on various chemicals and gases by up to 85%. After studying the options, the board told management to proceed on that recommendation at its June 19 public meeting.

The measure will allow the utility to comply with government regulations to reduce future greenhouse gas emissions at its existing power plants while preserving the district’s ability to service customer demand for electricity in the future, the district said.

Under the plan, OPPD would:

  • shut down three (Units 1-3, total of about 300 MW) of the five coal units at its North Omaha Station in 2016;
  • put stronger emissions controls (activated carbon injection and dry sorbent injection) on the other two units at North Omaha (Units 4-5, about 349 MW in total);
  • in 2023, quit burning coal altogether in Omaha by switching North Omaha Units 4-5 to natural gas; and
  • in 2016, add stronger emissions controls (ACI and DSI) on Nebraska City Station’s older coal unit, which is Unit 1 (652 MW).

Said the Standard & Poor’s credit rating agency about this plan in a Nov. 21 report: “The [North Omaha Station] 1-3 units are small, old, and less efficient than other OPPD generating assets, and they are infrequently dispatched. Insofar as the district has excess capacity and no resultant base-load needs, management projects that these efforts will have a modest rate impact. We expect these actions to bring OPPD into compliance with the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and Cross State Air Pollution Rule. However, the agency is assessing whether the fixes are sufficient to comply with its New Source Review requirements; should it issue an adverse decision, the district would need to install more costly controls, estimated at $418 million, which would ultimately have a more significant impact on ratepayers.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.