Over the years the knock on Nebraska Public Power District has been a perceived aversion to change and innovation. Some of that reputation was earned. “Always there when you need us,” NPPD promoted its low rates and reliability.

Although those qualities are highly important for any energy supplier, they just don’t sizzle in the frying pan like a well-marbled steak.

NPPD always has done its job well, but where’s the thrill in always doing what’s logical and prudent? What some Nebraskans want to see in their public power supplier is a risk-taker and trend-setter.

Well, Nebraskans, you’re getting from NPPD what you’ve been hoping for.

This week as the American Public Power Association conducted its annual conference in Austin, Texas, NPPD took home the APPA’s Energy Innovator Award. The award encourages utility programs to seek out, develop and employ creative, energy-efficient techniques or technologies. Such technologies can run the gamut — as NPPD has demonstrated — from innovative ways to collect meter and billing information to investments in new generating technology.

NPPD has been on an innovative trajectory for at least the past 10 years, diversifying the ways in which it generates electricity, opening doors for innovation in communities such as Norfolk and Kearney, and re-purposing resources for experimental projects, such as the Sheldon Station plant that’s being retooled to burn hydrogen in a process that produces no greenhouse gases.

The foundation for NPPD’s innovation is its steady and reasoned shift away from coal-fired generation toward more climate-friendly energy. NPPD’s power blend now shows the majority of its electricity doesn’t come from burning coal, which makes up 34.3 percent of NPPD’s energy blend. Other sources in NPPD’s blend are: nuclear, 39.6 percent; wind, 8.3; and hydro, 8.2. Outside suppliers provide most of the rest of the power NPPD delivers to its customers.

In recent years, NPPD has been investing more in wind energy, and it’s helping local communities to explore how to broaden the use of new clean energy — including Norfolk with a battery storage experiment and Kearney with its 53-acre solar farm.

By the way, NPPD was instrumental in Compute North’s decision to build a mini data center in Kearney. If not for NPPD’s record for reliability, the Minnesota data center company might have gone elsewhere.

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