May 8, 2016

Nebraska Legislature Advances Bill to Ease Wind Development

The unicameral Nebraska legislature moved LB 824 to its third and final debate and vote by passing it as amended in a 32 to 8 vote and preventing a filibuster by its opponents. The bill will allow developers to more easily build in the wind-rich state and export the electricity to other states.

Bill supporters say the law would attract development capital to a state that has the third highest wind potential in the country but only gets 8% of its electricity from wind. Iowa, by contrast, gets 31% of its power from wind, Oklahoma gets 18.4%, and Kansas gets 23.9%, according to American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) numbers.

Though bill opponents object to wind because it is variable and depends on federal tax subsidies, Nebraska’s 16 wind projects currently provide about 2,000 jobs, have attracted $1.5 billion in capital investment, and deliver $2.4 million in lease payments to the state’s landowners,AWEA reported.


Nebraska could be a powerhouse in wind energy resources, according to the American Wind Energy Association, but wind energy developers are claiming they've faced difficulty in navigating state regulations making it difficult to export the resource to Nebraska. 

The Nebraska Public Power District, Lincoln Electric System, and the state Power Review Board remained neutral in hearings on the bill.

The bill would remove statutes covering the Nebraska Power Review Board process for private renewable energy development that are a barrier to development. These statutes have required time and money from developers that are not required in laws within neighboring states. 

For example, the bill would remove the state’s requirement that they have a power purchase agreement in place with an out-of-state off-taker, which has burdened developers. The law would, however, maintain existing oversight such as the requirement to register renewable energy projects with theNebraska Power Review Board.

Critics of the bill have said wind doesn't represent a reliable way to meet peak demand for power, and extending transmission lines to counties hosting the highest wind potential would also make wind generation "cost prohibitive," the news outlet noted. 

But the most frequent criticism was over the recently-extended five-year federal production tax credit extension. 

“We just keep throwing more tax subsidies at this generating source that we don’t even need,” said Sen. Curt Friesen (R). His fear is that wind generation, in the absence of tax incentives, wouldn't compete with less expensive fossil fuels. 

The proposal faces a third round of consideration and a potential signature from Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) before becoming law. 

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