The unique benefits of community-owned electricity

Blind alley transformer change out.

“local people serving local people”

Electricity. Most of you never think about it, but it makes nearly everything you do possible. You only think about it if your power goes out. We have a few things we’d like you to think about today.

LES is one of 2,000 public power utilities nationwide. There are many unique benefits of community-owned electric utilities. Among those benefits are low rates, reliable power and, of course, local control.

Decisions about the utility are made by people who live and work here, not corporations focused on shareholder profits. The utility’s administrative board meets publicly each month, and every member comes from the community—lives in the community, works in the community. As board members, we all work hard to understand the needs of the friends and neighbors we serve, and further to operate the utility consistent with the values of all customers.

LES is community owned, meaning each LES customer is part-owner of their electric utility. Dividends are paid in the form of lower rates, a more reliable electric system, and payments in lieu of taxes paid directly to the City of Lincoln, Lancaster County, City of Waverly, and the Lincoln Public School District. LES pays the equivalent of more local taxes than any other company in Lancaster County. Since being established in 1966, the community-owned utility has paid approximately $312 million to local governments and schools—$13.1 million in 2019. 

Public Power is good for our community, but it has a special tradition in Nebraska, as well. Ours is the only 100% public power state in the country.
Nebraskan values of community service and community investment are exemplified in public power. Nebraska has some of the lowest electric rates in the country, in part because its public power utilities are driven by customer service rather than profits.

The Lincoln area has counted on the safe, affordable and reliable electricity from its public power provider for nearly 55 years. LES is the second-largest retail electric provider in Nebraska serving more than 140,000 customers. Those customers experienced an average outage time of 13.5 minutes per customer in 2019, just one-eighth of the national average. Meanwhile, year-after-year power consistently remains available for LES customers 99.99% of the time.

Safety and reliability are the highest priorities at LES. The Lincoln area’s community-owned electric utility goes through continuous crisis planning to safeguard grid resiliency. This planning has enabled LES to implement appropriate measures to limit impacts of COVID-19 on utility operations.

Last year LES participated in GridEx V, a biennial national grid security exercise that LES has been a part of since its inception. Across the country, 425 organizations took part in the exercise, including 100 public power utilities. At LES, more than 70 employees and 15 representatives from local government, emergency management entities and other utilities were in involved.

Sustainable energy remains at the forefront of our planning. Over the last 10 years LES has increased renewable energy production from an equivalent of 10% of retail sales in 2010 to an equivalent of 46% last year and further, has also reduced CO2 emissions by 42% since 2010. LES continues to explore ways to build on its environmental initiatives while recognizing that a cleaner energy future will require continued advancements in technology to maintain reliable service and affordable rates.

The phrase “local people serving local people” is used a lot in public power. It is a mantra that demonstrates the essence of public power and LES. LES employees and board members care deeply about Lincoln and the surrounding communities. We are driven to help power a stronger Lincoln and strive to foster an environment where our employees, customers and all those we interact with feel welcome and valued. 

Energy is more vital today than any other time in history, public power enables our community to
be in control of its own energy future. Thanks to
the people at LES who keep our lights on and phones charged. Your commitment to the power of public power is part of what makes the Lincoln area so special. 

This is just a glimpse into all that is happening at LES to ensure that you have electricity for your homes and businesses, especially now when technology is keeping many of us connected to one another. You may not think of us every day, but we think of you.

Sarah Peetz

LES Administrative Board Chair
on behalf of the LES Board

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