NEBRASKA POWER REVIEW BOARD
Minutes of the 842nd Meeting
June 9, 2023
The 842nd 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, Ms. Gottschalk, and Ms. Peck. Vice Chairman Hutchison and Ms. Peck were both attending via Webex, so the meeting will count as a video conference meeting. Mr. Moen had informed the Board several months ago that he would not be available for the June meeting due to a medical issue. Executive Director Texel stated that public notice for the meeting had been published in the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper on May 30, 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 May 19, 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. Ms. Gottschalk moved to approve the draft minutes. Ms. Peck seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – yes, Ms. Gottschalk – yes, Mr. Moen – absent and Ms. Peck – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent.
The next agenda item was acceptance of the expense report for the month of May. In May there was $36,214.36 in personal services, $16,403.95 in operating expenses, and $3,744.93 in travel expenses. The total May expenses were $56,363.24. Eleven months or about 92% of the fiscal year has gone by, and the PRB has used 88% of its cash fund. Ms. Peck moved to accept the May expense report. Ms. Gottschalk seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – yes, Ms. Gottschalk – yes, Mr. Moen – absent and Ms. Peck – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent.
The next item on the agenda was approval of the PRB’s assessment figure for fiscal year 2023-2024. The executive director reviewed the electric utilities’ gross revenue for the past few years. In 2020 the gross revenue increased from the previous year by almost $3.5 million, in 2021 the revenue increased almost $657 million due to weather event Winter Storm Uri. This year’s gross revenue decreased by approximately $59 million. The analyst at the Budget Office informed the staff he wants the PRB to collect $553,433. Last year the PRB collected $590,000. The budget office set our reserve fund for this year at $172,000. The Budget Office is trying to keep the assessment figure within 5% of the previous year so the assessment figure will not fluctuate very much. Last year’s assessment figure was 12.55108439. The assessment figure will need to be 11.923502 cents per $1,000 gross revenue for fiscal year 2023-2024. Ms. Gottschalk moved to approve the assessment figure of 11.923502 cents per $1,000 gross revenue for Fiscal Year 2023-2024. Ms. Peck seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – yes, Ms. Gottschalk – yes, Mr. Moen – absent and Ms. Peck – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent.
The next item on the agenda was the executive director’s report. The first item was an update on the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) monthly activities. The Board had a copy of JK Energy’s monthly report. Vice Chairman Hutchison stated that he did not have much to update the Board on, since the last meeting was just a few weeks ago. He did want to discuss succession planning for the next Southwest Power Pool Regional State Committee (RSC) member, though. He talked about the importance of the designated Board member being available to attend the RSC meetings and conference calls, and that not all members of the Board would be willing or have the time available that the RSC position requires. Executive Director Texel gave the example of a previous Board member, Rick Morehouse, who was the Board’s designated accountant member. Mr. Morehouse said he would not have the electrical background knowledge nor the time available from his employer to attend RSC meetings. There have several Board members who had the opportunity because of their job status at or near retirement, or owning their own business, but there is no guarantee there will always be board members with that flexibility with their work. Chairman Reida commented that he believed the RSC member should be on the Board longer than other members. Previous PRB members who served on the RSC were elected to chair the RSC or some of its special committees because of their longevity. These representatives were also well respected due to their knowledge about the industry and were called upon often for their input. Vice Chairman Hutchison stated that it takes several years for the RSC representative to get acclimated to the RSC environment. He spoke about the possibility of addressing this need with the utilities in the Nebraska Power Association. He suggested the Board assign a committee of two PRB members to review this issue internally. Once the committee arrived at some potential ways to address the succession planning issue the PRB could address it with the NPA and private developers. The other Board members agreed that having a committee work on the idea of succession planning for the RSC was something that should be done. All four Board members present agreed to designate Vice Chairman Hutchison and Ms. Gottschalk as the committee members to work with Executive Director Texel and come up with suggested solutions. Chairman Reida then asked about an item in the JK Energy monthly update concerning the performance accreditation requirements. Vice Chairman Hutchison gave a broad view of the answer. He stated that he was not quite sure of the specific answer, but he believes when a plant has an outage or a repair that this can cause a lower performance rating for the facility. The SPP is looking at how to calculate the average performance number to allow one lower performance period to be omitted in the calculations to address the outage and other situations.
The executive director discussed the Legislature and the bills on the PRB tracking list. The Legislation adjourned for the year on June 1, 2023. Several of the bills the PRB is tracking were included in what was referred to as “Christmas Tree” bills. This is where a bill on General File would be amended to add numerous additional bills that had committee hearings and were under one Committee’s jurisdiction. By “bundling” the bills, the Legislature can move more noncontroversial bills toward approval. LB191 was one such Christmas Tree bill. It included 7 other bills, was enacted by the Legislature, and was signed by the Governor on May 26. One of those bills is LB 267, which is the Critical Infrastructure Utility Worker Protection Act. OPPD requested this bill. The bill would make utility workers eligible to receive preferential treatment during an emergency for such things as access to personal protection equipment and vaccines, etc., just like law enforcement, firefighters and medical personnel currently receive.
Another Christmas Tree bill is LB 565. The original bill pertained to clean hydrogen hubs. Several additional bills were amended into LB 565, including LBs 289, 567 and 568 that the PRB has on its tracking document. LB 289 addresses the authority of agencies created under the Municipal Cooperative Financing Act. The bill clarifies that the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) would have the authority to “own, operate, contract to operate, or lease advanced metering infrastructure technology.” MEAN asked for this bill because some of its members are requesting MEAN to install and operate smart meters in their towns. An attorney general’s opinion determined that MEAN may lack the authority to engage in such activities. Also included in this bill is LB 567. This bill defines the term “reliability” for purposes of the Power Review Board’s statutes. It also makes it mandatory for the designated representative organization that prepares the annual Load and Capability Report (currently the Nebraska Power Association) to include any additional information the PRB requests in the report, as long as the request is submitted in writing, is consistent with the PRB’s statutory responsibilities, and can be performed at a reasonable cost. The bill also removes the prohibition against high-level managers of public power districts serving as a director on another public power district’s board. LB 568 would adopt the Nuclear and Hydrogen Development Act. The bill would create a working group and allocate five million dollars from the general fund. The fund would terminate on July 31, 2028. LB 565 was approved with an emergency clause on May 26. The e-clause only applies to specific sections of the bill.
Executive Director Texel told the Board MEAN has also filed a Petition to amend its charter to clarify that it has the authority to engage in all legally authorized activities, which would include owning, installing and operating advanced metering equipment. Chairman Reida commented on the Load and Capability report. This report refers to only Nebraska, even though Nebraska is a member of SPP. Nebraska needs to be prepared for outages. He stated that there might be a situation when Nebraska has an outage, and we get power from the other members in SPP and this can also go the other way. Nebraska could be sending its power to another member who has an outage. Vice Chairman Hutchison stated that it is helpful to have our own house in order first. There was discussion about LR 21. This was a legislative study. The executive director stated that he would follow up on this LR, but it doesn’t look like any action was taken on it.
The next item on the agenda was to consider a pay raise for the executive director and general counsel. All eligible state employees, both the bargaining unit and the rules covered employees, will receive a 5% pay raise, as well as an additional 2% if their performance evaluation was at least “satisfactory.” The pay raises will go into effect on July 1, 2023. Agency heads are non-classified employees, and their salary is left to the discretion of their board or commission, so long as the agency’s budget will cover the raise. The Legislature appropriated an amount that would cover a 7% increase for all three PRB employees. Chairman Reida said he believed the executive director has done a very good job and his performance evaluations reflect this. He said he believes the 7% increase is appropriate. Ms. Gottschalk moved to give the executive director and general counsel a 7% pay increase effective July 1, 2023. Vice Chairman Hutchison seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – absent, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Moen – absent, and Ms. Peck – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent.
Executive Director Texel stated that the next PRB meetings are scheduled for July 21, August 18, and September 15, 2023.
Ms. Gottschalk moved to adjourn the meeting. Ms. Peck seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison –yes, Ms. Gottschalk – yes, Mr. Moen – absent and Ms. Peck – yes. The motion carried 4 –0 with one absent. The meeting was adjourned at 10:16 a.m.
Timothy J. Texel
Executive Director and General Counsel