Sustaining Balance

Every decision LES makes is done so with a variety of considerations in mind. Healthy, sustainable electric service relies on energy that is affordable, reliable and environmentally sensible.

Lincoln Electric System, the Lincoln area’s public power provider for over 55 years, has been balancing sustainability and responsible energy use with affordable, reliable power since the early 1970s. Now, just as then, LES is committed to a bright energy future for the community by researching and utilizing sustainable programs and resources, and educating customers on sustainable living practices.

From 2010 to 2020, LES increased renewable energy production from the equivalent of 9% of retail sales to 49%, simultaneously reducing CO2 emissions by 53%. 2020 also marked the next step forward for the utility’s sustainability efforts as the LES Administrative Board adopted a 100 percent net decarbonization goal by 2040, one of the most aggressive in the region. As a public power utility, LES strives to make decisions that align with its community members’ values, balancing high standards of reliability and cost-effectiveness with sustainability.

Accomplishing this feat requires a steady hand.

While many changes happen over time, opportunities can often arise when they’re least expected. Proper planning and preparation empower the thoughtful agility required to make sound decisions for the community’s energy supply that maintain customer-owner expectations. In the electric industry, “preparation and planning” translates to research, modeling and forecasting future scenarios.

As part of its ongoing research efforts, LES has been working with the Electric Power Research Institute for more than four decades, nearly as long as the institute has been around. Through EPRI, LES collaborates on research initiatives with other utilities and industry affiliates across the country. Two such initiatives include EPRI’s Low Carbon Resource Initiative, or LCRI, and the Power-in-Pollinators Initiative.

The LCRI is a focused research and development effort to advance low-carbon energy technologies capable of large-scale use for utilities. The LCRI is a collaboration between more than 30 energy and technology companies and could provide solutions that will help LES meet its 2040 net decarbonization goal. The Lincoln area’s public power utility has been a member of the group since its inception in 2020, in search of more solutions for decreasing carbon dioxide emissions.

Minimizing carbon emissions, however, is not the only form of sustainability that the local utility cares about. While an increase in greenhouse gases can seem abstract or far off, the decline of pollinators and the plants they help thrive can be easily felt at the local level in our community’s front gardens and back lawns.

In fact, declines in pollinator populations are causing alarm for ecological, financial, health, and cultural reasons. According to the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project, at least 17 insect pollinator species, including butterflies, moths, and bumblebees, need conservation efforts here in Nebraska. These pollinators are at risk in our state under current conditions or because of emerging threats to their populations.

The EPRI Power-in-Pollinators Initiative connects utilities to collaboratively accelerate their pollinator projects’ pace, scale, and effectiveness, expanding pollinator conservation with thoughtful, ecologically meaningful actions.

Through research, education and collaboration, LES continues to support Lincoln’s Climate Action Plan while simultaneously maintaining some of the lowest rates and highest reliability in the nation. Preserving this balance is only possible through prudent planning informed by fellowship between LES’ energy experts and the people they serve. That’s the public power difference: local control, public input. Throughout 2022, as LES works to create its five-year Integrated Resource Plan, or IRP, input from the public will continue to be a necessary and valuable part of the utility’s process.

LES’ IRP acts as a long-term playbook, offering LES staff and decision-makers a holistic view of each imagined resource planning choice that could be made. It forecasts when power resources might be needed, what the optimal resource mix may look like, and strategies LES could utilize to best serve its ratepayers in response to various unknowns.

As a public power utility, LES’ process for creating an IRP report is designed to ensure collaboration between customer-owners and their electric service provider. 

Combining industry knowledge with insight from LES customer-owners, the utility develops its long-term, integrated resource plan with the goals of maintaining the lowest possible rates and highest reliability for its community while meeting its energy needs through environmentally responsible means.

LES balances all considerations to create pathways toward making the right decisions as they come. Aided by the IRP, LES staff will continue its ongoing process of technological and financial evaluations to make prudent resource planning decisions that help ensure a prosperous Lincoln today and tomorrow. 

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