There will be a couple of new faces when the OPPD board reconvenes in January. Craig Moody, Owner of Verdis Group, and Rick Yoder, Consultant at the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC), were each recently elected to the board.
The two will take their new seats on January 12th and each will serve for six years.
Moody explained he decided to run for a seat on the board because he felt like it presented a nice opportunity to continue his work to improve the Omaha community at large.
“But it also really aligned with my area of expertise and my skillset. I work in the energy industry today. So it was a nice sort of extension of what I do on a day to day basis. I believe I can add a lot of value to the board,” he said.
Moody’s company, Verdis Group, consults large institutions on how to be more sustainable in terms of energy efficiency, water efficiency, waste reduction and active transportation work. Moody said the company has been going strong for 7 ½ years and won the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year Award in 2015 so he feels they’re doing a pretty good job.
“Over the course of my professional career, I’ve worked to find different opportunities to try and influence decision makers and improve this community. This is the next step for me to actually become the decision maker on how we receive and use electricity in this community,” said Moody.
The industry is changing quickly and that’s part of what Moody is excited about, “It’s not your grandfather’s utility.”
Through his job with NBDC, Yoder said they promote energy efficiency and new technologies in businesses that can help them reduce costs by saving energy and engaging in resource conservation such as water conservation and eliminating waste.
“I’ve always been interested in and always watched what OPPD was doing. And last fall there was a change in rate structure that upset many people. So I felt like I could do something about it if I ran for office,” he said.
One of Yoder’s primary concerns is that OPPD doesn’t have many policies that promote energy efficiency, something he’s always been about with his background in mechanical engineering.
“So when OPPD doesn’t have energy efficiency programs like the ones you see around the country, it raises some questions for me. What I found out is many states have a public utilities review board that set renewable energy portfolios or energy efficiency standards for their utilities to operate within the state but that doesn’t happen in Nebraska,” Yoder said.
The proportion of electricity that is generated by renewables or the portion of OPPD’s power portfolio that’s allotted to energy efficiency, as well as the incentives they have for that is decided by the board here. It was something Yoder felt he could get his hands into.
Moody’s approach to working on the board has less to do with his hands than his nose.
“I have a nose in, fingers out philosophy. As a board member you have to have your nose in there sniffing around, asking questions; you’re helping to set that long-term vision. But you don’t have your fingers in the day-to-day. It’s an important balance to strike as a board member,” he explained.
Moody has never been one to sit back. He said he’s fully invested and ready to get started.
Yoder is excited to bring a new perspective to the board, “I like to ask questions. The work I am doing here offers me exposure to new technologies and other policies around the United States so I will be asking often how we compare to others around the nation. How can we make Omaha more attractive to people to live and work and play?”
Neither Moody nor Yoder has a particular list of “to do’s” but both have areas they are interested in focusing on.
For Yoder, he would like to see more openness in board meetings and would like OPPD to make them more accessible through virtual meeting software as well as potentially shifting the times of meetings so more people could attend.
“The other thing I said from the primary on is that the landowners I represent are interested in renewable energy, whether solar or wind. And OPPD has not been working with them as I think they should be, so that’s something I would like to see happen,” said Yoder.
Moody has three things he said are important to him:
- Clean energy and energy-efficiency – “This is an important next step for OPPD to take. I will push to see we are responsibly and aggressively adopting clean energy technology. The first thing you should do as a business or home owner is try to become more efficient before you worry about your energy source. The cleanest kilowatt hour is the one you don’t use.”
- Transparency and openness – Like Yoder, Moody talked to thousands of people when knocking on doors during campaign. And one of the things he heard frequently is that people don’t think they have a good sense of what’s going on internally. So hopes to help OPPD create better mechanisms to share the information that’s appropriate to share.
- Pricing – He’s anxious to take a look at the significant hike in the fixed fee and look at other ways for OPPD to structure their rates so they’re not punishing people that have recently invested in energy efficiency.
“Coal-fired utilities and to some extent natural gas-fired utilities have health consequences, but they are also a steady source of electricity so it’s a tradeoff people have been willing to make,” Yoder said.
For his part, he is looking forward to exploring more green energy sources of electricity. He said these provide great opportunities to improve the environment and environmental health (what we are exposed to). And it’s something he believes people are excited about.
Moody agreed there’s a lot that could be done citywide that we aren’t doing today. He said when customers become more energy efficient, their use of electricity goes down and that presents a challenge for the utility.
“If demand goes down, we need innovative ways to maintain or grow revenue so that OPPD can be a strong organization financially. And I think electric vehicles, to me, should be on the top of the list for them. There’s a ton of potential for them to grow their revenue in this market,” Moody said.
Yoder actually already drives a plug-in hybrid. He plugs in at his house and can get to Omaha on that charge. Though he still needs gas to make the return trip, the net impact is much less than if he used gas for the whole trip.
Moody said he and Yoder are both in a position to add value to the board right away.
“Rick and I both will bring different and fresh perspectives. I think we can both be really effective board members that do a good job from the get go because we have both been working in this industry previously. There’s so little room for error and everything is changing so quickly. Decisions need to be made today that will impact many generations going forward.”