Impactful // Annual Report

At Lincoln Electric System, we understand the impact an energy company has on its surrounding communities.  

LES staff works each day to make thoughtful decisions that benefit our community. In 2021, dedicated employees continued striving to safely and reliably deliver clean, affordable energy to customer-owners with exceptional customer service. Along with our industry-leading reliability, focus on affordable rates, continuing emphasis on safety, and wealth of local energy experts, the utility found new ways to bring value to the community.  

LES continued our commitments to safety, system demand reduction through offerings such as Peak Rewards and the Sustainable Energy Program, and effective use of generation resources through innovation and industry collaboration. We engaged our community with STEM and safety education, hybrid meetings and events, charitable giving and volunteerism. And, we maintained our status as a high-value asset to the community. 

For the first time in over 50 years, the LES Administrative Board was able to approve a systemwide rate decrease for customers. The 1% decrease was accompanied by a reduced 2022 budget proposal compared to 2021. This exciting budget and rates proposal was made possible by LES’ continued realignment of energy and facilities charges and a combination of depreciation and lower-than-expected fuel costs. Though most average customers will see little change to their bills overall, the decision to have a decrease serves as an example of the public power value LES brings to the Lincoln area. 

LES’ 2021 Annual Report is a synopsis of the utility’s efforts and achievements. We did a lot. Continue scrolling to learn about public power’s positive impacts on our customers, community and industry over the last year. 

LOCAL IMPACTS

Public power’s local impacts are undeniable and LES leads the way. From local control and environmental stewardship to low rates and community investment, LES positively impacts local people. 

Crews restoring power
17.1 minutes

The average outage time per LES customer. National average is 124 minutes. 

EdITH - LES' Educational Interactive Tiny House
$2.73 per day 

LES customers paid an average of only $2.73 per day to power their lives. According to the LES regional rate comparison, which compares electric bills in a six-state region, the Lincoln area had the lowest average monthly bill for residential customers using 1,000 kWh.

Substation construction
Infrastructure growth 

A new substation was energized, and 200,000 feet of distribution cable was replaced, which supports continued reliability as the demand for electricity increases.

United Way total donated by LES employees
$112,160.80 raised 

LES reached 100.42% of its United Way Campaign goal, with employees raising a total of $112,160.80.

SUSTAINABLE IMPACTS

In pursuit of our goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, LES continues to make conscious and considerate choices to achieve a cleaner energy future.

LES wind turbine
Low-carbon resources initiative 

LES joined a five-year initiative to develop and demonstrate key clean energy technologies and decarbonization solutions.

LES solar bench
Paperless billing 

LES concluded its four-year paperless billing campaign, which resulted in 34% customer conversion, the planting of nearly 400 trees and the placement of five solar benches.

Energy-efficient lighting
$1.6 million 

LES distributed Sustainable Energy Program funds to incent more than 2,500 energy-efficiency projects, reducing peak summer demand by a net 4.8 MW and energy consumption by 7,200 MWh annually.

Rooftop solar panels
Solar power milestone 

Lincoln-area residents hit a 2-MW capacity milestone for customer-owned renewable energy generation in July.

Carport with rooftop solar panels
Solar carport 

LES constructed a 50-stall carport on the west side of the Operations Center, including solar panels on the roof that will provide 76kWDC of energy.

UTILITY IMPACTS

LES is improving how we serve the needs of a growing customer base and workforce. Significant strides were taken in 2021 to make LES a safer, more secure and more inclusive place to work.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion graphic
You belong here 

LES established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion employee resource group to reflect the utility’s ongoing journey to foster a diverse and inclusive company.

Power lines
Cyber and grid security 

LES conducted a grid security exercise to help improve security of the North American grid. In addition, four cross-divisional cybersecurity tabletop exercises were completed.

Laptop
Remote work 

LES implemented changes to allow eligible employees to work remotely up to two days per week provided that business and customer needs can continue to be met.

LES - Nebraska's Safest Companies flag
Safe workplace 

LES earned this award by the National Safety Council – Nebraska Chapter, demonstrating safety records that are better than the national industry average.

LES facility
New public space 

2021 was the first year the LES Operations Center public space was utilized for LES Administrative Board meetings and events.

LES facility
Downtown relocation 

The Customer Care team relocated from the downtown building to the Service Center in March 2021. Remaining employees relocated to the LES Operations Center in April.

ENERGY EMERGENCY/WINTER STORM URI

In February, the entire region was tested when extreme cold from Winter Storm Uri combined with fuel-side supply/demand issues resulted in an unprecedented energy emergency. LES' regional balancing authority, Southwest Power Pool, required members to shed load with rotating outages to help mitigate the far-reaching crisis. 

A crisis communications plan was implemented, and LES employees worked diligently to execute established processes and procedures while developing new ones as the situation evolved. Staff made numerous enhancements to LES' communication channels to inform employees, customers and the media of what was happening and what to expect as conditions changed. One such enhancement included updates to the real-time outage map, allowing customers to plan ahead for controlled rotating outages. LES' CEO Kevin Wailes also held a news conference to bring customers into the situation further. 

Much has been learned in the storm's aftermath. While SPP is implementing measures in response to those lessons learned, LES also is working to further enhance our electric system's resilience. LES staff also has taken steps responsive to the lessons learned about internal procedures and operations. 

Map showing controlled outages in February 2021
EV RIDE + DRIVE

LES hosted the first-ever electric vehicle test drive event of its type in Nebraska during summer 2021. LES’ EV Ride + Drive facilitated over 300 test drives around Haymarket Park in Lincoln, giving LES customer-owners the opportunity for a hands-on experience which introduced them to emerging technologies. 

The event engaged learners of various types by offering diverse educational opportunities to learn via live EV webinars throughout the week as part of LES Sustainable Living Week’s lead-up to the Ride + Drive, 1-on-1 conversations with members of LES’ EV Interest Group at the event, interactive displays showcasing sustainable technologies in LES’ Educational Interactive Tiny House, and regularly scheduled presentations such as high-voltage safety demos presented by LES lineworkers and EV 101 sessions to facilitate interaction between customers and local EV experts. 

Nothing is accomplished that can’t be measured. LES staff surveyed attendees throughout the day to gauge customer attitudes around EVs and the event’s educational efficacy. Several interesting statistics stand out. Overall: 

  • 60% of attendees had NO experience with EVs. 
  • There was a 22% increase in positive feelings toward EVs. 
  • Customers’ likelihood to purchase an EV rose 6% after attending.
MUTUAL AID

LES answered the call twice in 2021. The first was for restoration assistance from utilities in Louisiana, preparing for heavy damage to regional electric infrastructure in the wake of Hurricane Ida. The Category 4 storm made landfall Aug. 29 and battered the Gulf Coast. Its destruction had far-reaching impacts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. 

Based in Lafayette and commuting two hours each morning, three crews of 14 LES employees assisted power restoration efforts in Houma, Louisiana. They worked for two weeks to rebuild infrastructure in impacted communities — one of the most prolonged mutual aid assignments in recent memory. During that time, crews at home continued the daily work of maintaining our community’s electric system and keeping the lights on for our neighbors, families and friends. 

LES employees consistently rise to the challenge when asked for help by peers in the American Public Power Association’s mutual aid network. The network enables coordination among public power utilities and local, state and federal agencies to respond quickly during moments of crisis.

LES teams also provided mutual aid efforts closer to home. The severe storm that blew through eastern Nebraska in early July 2021 knocked out power throughout the area, with Omaha recording more than 188,000 customers without electricity. LES was one of several utilities mobilized to help restore power and aid in communications. Practicing good neighbor values through mutual aid assistance helps public power utilities like LES ensure aid at home should the need ever arise.
 

2021 highlights

LES’ Customer Care department answered 129,012 calls, handled 37,327 requests and served more than 15,008 walk-in customers who visited the Walter A. Canney Service Center business lobby since April 1, 2021. 

This marks the 5th consecutive year without the need to propose a rate increase.

LES developed its Solar Trade Ally Network comprised of eight Lincoln-area solar businesses at the time. This network, set to launch in 2022, was established to help ensure customers and contractors are provided accurate and consistent information regarding LES rates, projected future increases and other utility-related information used to make informed decisions about net metering.

LES staff collaborated with local nonprofits to provide more than $180,000 in funding to support 42 home energy-efficiency upgrades projected to save more than 1,500 kWh and $100 annually per home. 

The 3rd annual Zoo Lights Powered by LES was the brightest and best yet with 55,001 total attendees in 2021. To help ensure customers struggling financially were still able to enjoy the event with friends and families, LES donated 100 tickets through the Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties.

LES provided educational opportunities through community partnerships with 20 organizations, including the Lincoln STEM Ecosystem, Lincoln Children’s Museum, Lincoln Children’s Zoo, Lincoln Public Schools, The Career Academy and others. 

More than 500 customers enrolled their smart thermostats in the LES Peak Rewards demand response program. The total enrollment in the program is 1,200 customers and 2,300 thermostats, which represents 3 MW of controllable load. 

LES earned Tree Line USA designation through the Arbor Day Foundation for the 16th consecutive year, a program that recognizes best practices in utility arboriculture. 

LES coordinated 79 residential and commercial net-metering solar projects, which accounted for more than 350 kW in newly installed capacity and a total-installed capacity of 2.5 MW

Staff reviewed and addressed vegetation-related issues within 17 transmission corridor miles in conjunction with the 2021 Right of Way Assurance Program.

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