Minutes of the July 21, 2023 Meeting



Minutes of the 843rd Meeting

July 21, 2023


The 843rd meeting of the Nebraska Power Review Board (Board or PRB) was held in the First Floor Hearing Room, Nebraska State Office Building, 301 Centennial Mall, Lincoln, Nebraska.  The roll was called and present were Chairman Reida, Vice Chairman Hutchison, Mr. Moen, and Ms. Peck. Ms. Gottschalk had not yet arrived but was on her way to the meeting.  Executive Director Texel stated that public notice for the meeting had been published in the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper on July 11, 2023.  The Board also made the meeting available to the public through Webex.  The Webex login information was available on the Board’s website and was published in the Lincoln Journal Star notice.  The agenda on the Board’s website provided links to the agenda items with associated documents the Board will consider, as well as a link to the Nebraska Open Meetings Act.  Executive Director Texel explained that if any member of the public watching the meeting on Webex wanted to speak, they could click on the “raise your hand” icon.  At that time they would be unmuted, they could announce who is speaking, provide an address, and disclose if they represent an organization.  Anyone wishing to comment on an item or ask a question could also type the comment or question in the “chat” function and the Board’s staff would read the question.  All background materials for the agenda items to be acted on were provided to all Board members prior to the meeting and a copy of the materials was in each Board member’s meeting notebook.  The executive director announced that a copy of the Nebraska Open Meetings Act was on display on the south wall of the room, and another copy was available in a black three-ring binder on the table at the back of the room.  A copy of all materials that the Board would consider was available for public inspection on a file cabinet along the south wall near the back of the room, as well as extra copies of the agenda.


The Board first considered the draft minutes from its June 9, 2023, public meeting.  The minutes had been sent electronically to the Board members.  The staff did not have any recommended changes, and no one had contacted them with any requested changes.  Vice Chairman Hutchison moved to approve the draft minutes.  Ms. Peck seconded the motion. Voting on the motion:  Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – yes, Ms. Gottschalk – absent, Mr. Moen – abstain, and Ms. Peck – yes.  Mr. Moen abstained because he was absent from the June meeting.  The motion carried 3-0, with one abstaining and one absent.


The next agenda item was acceptance of the expense report for the month of June.  In June there was $24,221.65 in personal services, $17,217.99 in operating expenses, and $(-)920.22 in travel expenses.  The total June expenses were $40,519.42.    The negative amount in the travel expense is due to the reimbursement received from Southwest Power Pool for Vice Chairman Hutchison’s SPP travel expenses.  The fiscal year ended June 30.  The PRB used approximately 94% of its cash fund not including the cash reserve.  There was discussion on what happens to the remaining funds.  Rebecca Hallgren, the Board’s business manager, said the unused funds remain in the cash fund for use during the next fiscal year.  Mr. Moen moved to accept the June expense report.  Ms. Peck seconded the motion.  Voting on the motion:  Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – yes, Ms. Gottschalk – absent, Mr. Moen – yes and Ms. Peck – yes.  The motion carried 4-0, with one absent.


The next item on the agenda was MEAN’s Petition for charter amendment 40.  This amendment would change the language in section 6 of the agency’s charter to address recent statutory changes approved by the Legislature.  It would also update the list of directors.  Ms. Gottschalk joined the meeting at approximately 9:13 a.m.  Executive Director Texel explained that statute section 18-2433 sets out the approval criteria.  The statute states that the Board must find that the statements in the petition are true and conform to the public convenience and welfare, and that the plants, systems and works, the operation of the same, the exercise of powers, and the assumption of duties and responsibilities of, or on the part of, such agency, do not nullify, conflict with, or materially affect those of any other district or a corporation organized under the provisions of chapter 70, article 6 or 8, or the Electric Cooperative Corporation Act, or those of any part of such district or corporation.  MEAN supplied a certified copy of its Board’s resolution voting to approve the language change in section 6 of its charter as Exhibit A.  A list of the names and addresses of the members of the agency’s directors is included as Exhibit B.  Public notice of the proposed charter amendment and the opportunity to file an objection or protest was published in the Omaha World Herald newspaper on June 14.  Written Notice was sent to the Nebraska Public Power District, the Western Area Power Association (WAPA) and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc.  The Board deems these utilities to be interested parties, as they have wholesale or wheeling contracts with MEAN.  No party filed an objection or protest regarding the proposed charter amendment.  Section 6 of the agency’s charter sets out the activities in which the agency can engage.  The proposed changes to the language in section 6 is needed as a companion to legislation that changed the activities in which agencies formed under the Municipal Cooperative Financing Act can engage.  LB 565, which amended LB 289 into it and was enacted this session, expands the authorized activities these types of agencies can engage in.  It added authority to own and operate, lease or contract to operate advanced metering infrastructure and advanced metering services.  Although the statute now authorizes MEAN to engage in these activities, MEAN’s current charter language only authorizes MEAN to own and operate power projects and all powers related to that activity.  Due to this language it is not clear that MEAN’s charter permits it to own, install and operated advanced meter equipment.  Some of MEAN’s member utilities want MEAN to install and operate advanced metering equipment for their towns.  The language change would make it clear that MEAN is authorized to engage in these activities.  Ms. Gottschalk moved to waive the hearing and approve the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska’s Petition for Charter Amendment 40.   Vice Chairman Hutchison seconded the motion.  Voting on the motion:  Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – yes, Ms. Gottschalk – yes, Mr. Moen – yes and Ms. Peck – yes.  The motion carried 5-0.


The Board next heard an update regarding Southwest Power Pool (SPP) activities from Vice Chairman Hutchison, who is the Board’s representative on the SPP’s Regional State Committee (RSC).  Vice Chairman Hutchison said that approval of the new planning reserve margin filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would be the main issue during the RSC quarterly meeting next week.  The new reserve margin would go into effect a year or two from approval.  The new tariff includes penalty provisions for non-compliance.  The SPP also recognizes that winter and summer have different peaks and load profiles, so SPP is trying to set different resource adequacy standards for each of the two seasons.  The HITT M1 team has been dealing with the congestion rights issue.  It appears the RSC may have worked out a compromise position, but some utilities want changes to the rules and may lobby for those changes.  Chairman Reida asked what is done with penalty funds paid by utilities that fail to meet the planning reserve margin requirement.  Vice Chairman Hutchison said the penalty funds are distributed to the utilities that have as much or more generation than is required.


Next the Board heard a presentation by MEAN about the status of SPP expansion activities in the western interconnection.  This involves the proposed RTO West and Markets+ entities.  The presentation was given by Brad Hans, Director of Wholesale Electric Operations for MEAN.  MEAN has several community members that are located in the western interconnection.  MEAN has been participating in the efforts of the RTO West and Markets+ activities.  MEAN’s explanation of the activities gave the Board a good understanding of why MEAN is involved in these efforts.  MEAN has members in Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa.  All these members receive the same fees and will be affected by the establishment of the RTO West and Markets+.  Mr. Hans went through each of the RTO West evolutions and Market+ phases.  The efforts are still in development and there are many details yet to be worked out.  The Board thanked Mr. Hans for his time putting together the presentation and all the helpful information.


The Board took a recess at 11:0 a.m. and returned at 11:07 a.m.  All members were again present.


After the presentation the Board took up the issue of appointing a Board member to represent the PRB on the SPP Markets+ State Committee.  This is the western interconnection version of the RSC.  Vice Chairman Hutchison stated that he would be willing to serve on the committee, but said that anyone could be appointed.  Mr. Moen asked about the committee and what is JK Energy’s opinion of it.  Vice Chairman Hutchison said the committee was actually going to be on a teleconference call today and JK Energy would be listening in on it.  JK Energy plans to monitor it, but at this time that is it.  There was discussion about JK Energy’s contract and if additional duties would be added, it would require paying JK Energy using the hourly rate set out in the contract for work outside the scope of the contract.  Chairman Reida stated that the natural choice to be on the committee would be Vice Chairman Hutchison.  It only makes sense the same board members is on the RSC and the Markets+ State Committee.  Mr. Moen moved to appoint Vice Chairman Hutchison to be the PRB’s representative on the Markets+ State Committee.  Ms. Peck seconded the motion. Voting on the motion:  Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – yes, Ms. Gottschalk – yes, Mr. Moen – yes and Ms. Peck – yes.  The motion carried 5-0.


The Board then discussed succession planning for the next SPP RSC member.  At the June meeting the Board established a committee of Vice Chairman Hutchison, Ms. Gottschalk and the executive director to review what the Board could do to ensure that the PRB has someone willing to serve as the RSC appointee.  Vice Chairman Hutchison talked about the importance of the designated Board member being available to attend the RSC meetings and conference calls, and that not all board members would be willing or have the time available that the RSC position requires.  The Committee had prepared a written summary of the issues and potential solutions, with pros and cons listed for each solution.  Chairman Reida offered an additional solution.  He proposed to have a sixth Board member position created.  The person would be a non-voting board member, and be designated as the RSC member.  The Board could collect applications and review them, with input from the Nebraska Power Association (NPA).  A recommendation would then be given to the Governor for the appointment.  The term for this member would be four years, but the position would have no term limits.  The current per diem for the RSC member ($250 per day) would remain.  After discussion of the options, the Board believed it needed to coordinate with the NPA on the options, and see if the NPA had any additional suggestions.  The Board asked the Committee to set up a meeting with NPA representatives to discuss the proposed options.


The executive director next wanted to follow up on the Board’s directions regarding a potential hearing on a new Petition filed by the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District (Central).  If approved, the Petition would merge Central with the Dawson Public Power District.  The boards for both Central and Dawson will be voting on whether to proceed with the merger in the next couple weeks.  At previous meetings, the PRB had expressed that if the new Petition is filed, the Board would like to hold the hearing in Kearney to accommodate the numerous parties interested in merger.  Executive Director Texel discussed the difficulty of getting a court reporter in the Kearney area.  However, the court reporting service did find a court reporter who works in that area and was available.  He also discussed the availability of a room to accommodate the potential number of people that might attend the hearing.  During the previous hearing the room was much more than full and at times 100 viewers were watching on Webex.  The cities of Kearney and Lexington were both contacted about accommodations.  Neither city had a room large enough to accommodate the expected number of people.  The City of Kearney recommended contacting the city library.  There was a possibility, but it would be limited to only the time that the library is open for the public.  The Younes Conference Center would be available for all day events and have rooms to accommodate the amount of people.  It could also accommodate a hearing on Saturday, if the Board wanted to do that.  The Board asked about the availability of a room at the University of Nebraska - Kearney.  At the time the staff had not contacted the college but will do so next week.  The Board did not want to schedule anything at this time.  There was discussion about establishing a time limit for the parties.  The Board did not like the idea of having a hearing for three days.  Executive Director Texel stated that originally Central’s attorney had told him that if both districts authorized it, the new Petition would be filed today.  However, Central’s board decided to postpone the vote to see if a compromise could be worked out with the irrigators that oppose the merger.  The districts will take a couple weeks to discuss the merger with the irrigators and hope that something can be worked out.


Executive Director Texel stated that the next PRB meetings are scheduled for August 18, September 15, and October 20, 2023.  The Board already has the 2024 meeting schedule.  The Board will continue its schedule in 2024 to hold meetings on the third Friday of each month.  Executive Director Texel asked the Board if it could move the July 2024 meeting to either the second or fourth Friday.  He has a family wedding to attend out of state on July 19, which is the third Friday in July.  The Board members agreed to move the July meeting date to July 12, 2024.


Vice Chairman Hutchison moved to adjourn the meeting.  Mr. Moen seconded the motion.  Voting on the motion:  Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison –yes, Ms. Gottschalk – yes, Mr. Moen – yes and Ms. Peck – yes.  The motion carried 5 –0.  The meeting was adjourned at 12:41 p.m.


Timothy J. Texel

Executive Director and General Counsel