We had a long, important meeting on Thursday, November 15. Here’s a quick recap.
Strategic Directive 7: Environmental Stewardship
The board approved an updated version of our Environmental Stewardship strategic directive by a 6-2 vote (see pg 11 here for final version). The new SD sets long-term goals of 50% of retail sales coming from renewables and a 20% reduction in our carbon intensity (annual CO2/kWh) by 2030 from a 2010 baseline. My ‘no’ vote was incredibly difficult. I’ll explain.
I am on the Public Information Committee, which is the committee that is tasked with bringing the full board a recommendation for final language on the strategic directive (SD). Our committee, along with the majority of the senior management team, spent hours upon hours studying, discussing, deliberating, refining, considering, evaluating, disagreeing, and ultimately compromising on the now final version. It was an arduous yet productive process through which I gained even more respect for my colleagues and members of senior management.
Yet, as we wrapped up our discussions as a full board at Tuesday’s all-committee meeting, I still wasn’t sure how I was going to vote. On one hand, the new SD is significantly improved. While it wasn’t perfect, we made good progress. Furthermore, I felt the need to honor the work and compromise of the PI Committee. On the other hand, my primary concern was that we weren’t setting a long-term vision for carbon reduction.
At Thursday’s board meeting, I offered my final thoughts on the SD and the work, writ large, that we have in front of us to continue improving our environmental footprint. (You can see the full board discussion by viewing this video; SD7 starts at 59:00.) The main points I made were:
1. Thanks to the PI Committee, Director Yoder, and the senior management team
2. OPPD has done exceptional work as it relates to environmental stewardship over the last 5-10 years
3. Our customer-owners desire carbon reduction and clean energy (backed up with several statistics)
4. Brief summary of a few concerns I have with SD7
5. Policy makers, including we as OPPD Directors, should be making decisions through an ethical framework, not just cost-benefit analysis
6. Our long-term goal should be zero carbon
I ended my comments with the following:
I’m proud of the way in which we’ve approached totally rewriting this SD, and I believe it is a marked improvement over the previous version. I’m proud of the fact that we’re talking about carbon emissions and much, much more, and our conversations are thoughtful, and tough, and mixed with equal parts practicality and future thinking.
But we must continue to wrestle with the challenges we face. For it’s not an understatement to say that we have an opportunity to solve one of the world’s biggest, most complicated challenges. We can play a leading role in helping humanity transition to an economy that is economically and reliably fueled by clean, non-emitting fuel sources. It is the challenge of our lifetimes, and I can think of no better organization and no better people to tackle the challenge…and I look forward to working together with my fellow board members, with OPPD’s management team, and with all of OPPD’s exceptional people to embrace the opportunity and solve the problem.
All throughout the process of rewriting SD7, we accepted, reviewed and considered comments from the public, and there were many. During the Board meeting, several students from Creighton University and a few from Central High School advocated for more aggressive action on reducing climate impacts. These students gave articulate, compelling and at times emotional testimony. They were knowledgeable, on point, and their thoughtful comments really grabbed my attention.
Once public comment concluded, we went right into voting, and I voted no. While it wouldn’t have mattered one way or another (it would have passed either way), I felt the weight of that vote. Yes/no votes are very black and white. There’s no “yes, but…” alternative. In the case of SD7, what took me from a ‘yes’ vote to a ‘no’ vote was that lack of a long-term vision for zero carbon.
In the end, I’m very satisfied with the progress we made on SD7, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it is implemented. And perhaps most importantly, for those of you that have testified before public bodies and wondered whether or not it made a difference, let me reassure you, it most certainly does.
Changing Course on Fort Calhoun Station Decommissioning
Over the last few months and culminating at our November meeting, OPPD has changed course in how we’re planning to decommission the Fort Calhoun nuclear station. Our previous plan was to deconstruct the plant in roughly sixty years. Through exceptional work on the part of some stellar OPPD employees, we’re electing to expedite that timeline and deconstruct in the next ten years, which will save OPPD roughly $200 million over the next several decades.
We’ve also elected to pursue a deconstruction plan that will be led by OPPD and will also engage a contractor in assisting and advising along the way. Keeping our staff in charge and leading the project is the right approach. They’ve been doing a great job with the early stages of decommissioning, and I’m confident they’ll knock it out of the park with deconstruction.
2019 Corporate Operating Plan (Budget)
OPPD released its 2019 budget last week. The utility is in a great financial position, and I’m really happy with how strong we are financially. See here for the full presentation slide deck, or watch Tuesday’s full video presentation (starting at 16:40) here.
Corporate Officer Adjustments (Pay Raises) for Four Executives
Four members of the senior management team earned 3% merit increases, which, for most of them, was on top of market adjustments made to their salaries. With respect to the latter, their jobs had expanded to the point where the market salary comparisons we were using were no longer germane. As such, they needed to be compared to other jobs, which increased their salary ranges. In any event, all four of them are performing at very high levels, and I fully support their market and merit increases.
Onward and upward!