Local View: Wind energy isn’t game

June 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

A recent advertising campaign is claiming Nebraska should “get in the game” and invest more in wind energy. But serving Nebraskans with reliable electricity is not a game.

At Nebraska Public Power District, we believe a diverse resource energy mix provides customers with the most affordable and reliable energy. Today, 40 percent of the energy we produce is carbon-free due to NPPD’s investments in nuclear, hydro and wind energy across the state. This energy, which is owned by Nebraskans, is the best carbon-free percentage in the region.

The ad ignores the fact NPPD and many other Nebraska utilities have goals to further increase power production from wind energy. At NPPD, our current goal is to produce 10 percent of our energy requirements from renewable energy by 2020. By the end of 2014, we will have partnered to receive the output from seven new wind facilities in the state and will be more than 80 percent of our goal. Another fact: These seven wind projects are among 12 that public power utilities will have made possible across our state by the end of next year. These additions to Nebraska’s public power system were made at a pace our customers can afford.

Nebraska’s electric rates are more than 15 percent below the national average, and NPPD’s retail residential electric rates are more than 11 percent below Iowa’s. Our power generating facilities meet or exceed all environmental and air quality emission standards. And, we have been proactive in adding additional emission control equipment to further reduce emissions, some more than 50 to 75 percent below the facilities’ federally allotted emission rate.

The coal we buy from neighboring Wyoming is low in sulfur content, which is better for the environment, and helps bring hundreds, or even thousands, of jobs to Nebraska. This nearby resource helps Gerald Gentleman Station, our largest generating facility, produce some of the lowest-cost power in the country for more than 600,000 Nebraskans.

Today, the public power industry in Nebraska employs about 6,000 Nebraskans. To imply a total of 14,000 jobs could be created in the state just by adding more wind generation, as claimed by the advertising campaign, would mean more than doubling the industry’s current workforce.

Nebraska is not Iowa. We use a public model to serve customers, and we are not receiving the benefit of tax incentives for wind projects paid by the public through taxes charged to them outside of their electric rates. During the federal government’s 2011 fiscal year, credits for electricity production from renewable resources amounted to $5.3 billion. Those dollars come from the pockets of every U.S. taxpayer.

Public power exists to serve Nebraskans, and we are mandated to provide low-cost power. This service to Nebraskans is not a game. We respect this state’s land, air and water, and use them prudently to meet our responsibilities. Here are some quick facts:

* Fact. Wind is a great resource and is one of many energy sources we use. But it does not blow all the time and requires back up resources, especially on still, hot summer days.

* Fact. Nebraska’s residential rates are lower than Iowa’s.

* Fact. Nebraska’s public power utilities will not play a shell game with Nebraska’s resources or its people.

Pat Pope is president and CEO of the Nebraska Public Power District.

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