Nebraska agriculture as a whole is the largest user of electricity in the state, due mostly to the energy needed to run irrigation systems. There are also multiple projects that have either broken ground or are in the works that would be heavy users of electricity. And recently, Omaha Public Power District suggested a rate increase to support increased electricity demand.
The state finds itself passing legislation regarding and in conversations concerning energy source reliability and affordability as well as the future of energy in Nebraska. It also is creating working groups in support of alternative energy sources like nuclear and hydrogen. However, Nebraska does not have a comprehensive short- or long-term plan on how to address this issue as a state. Rather, because it is a public power state, it relies on Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), rural electric associations, and other power providers to submit strategic plans regarding how power is generated, provided, stored, and used.
NPPD has a process for submitting a five-year outlook plan that shows how it produces energy and plans to provide it at an affordable and reliable rate. Recently, NPPD has set a goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, meaning it has set a goal to create a balance between greenhouse gasses that are produced by NPPD and those that are separated from the atmosphere through emission reduction and removal. During the public meetings that accompanied this five-year planning process, many questions arose regarding exactly how NPPD will achieve this goal and whether prices and immediate availability of energy would be affected.
There are issues that need to be addressed in the energy field by not only the Legislature, but also the state and regulatory agencies. Several of the issues are listed below.
- Increased electricity usage throughout the state could potentially put producers at risk, especially during drought conditions. When irrigation systems are needed most are also times when electricity loads are heaviest.
- Rural Electric Association approaches to private energy generation behind the meter continue to vary. Some associations are limiting the ability of producers to install their own cost-saving, energy-generating technology (solar panels, wind turbines, etc.) due to limits of renewable energy generation placed on the associations.
- The city of Lincoln is considering enacting a ban on installation of gas hookups on newly built homes similar to those passed throughout the country. This idea could potentially spread. A bill has been introduced in the Legislature that would prohibit such bans from being enacted, although it has not been passed.
- The Nebraska Farm Bureau and other key groups have formed a state-selected group to pursue a Hydrogen Hub designation, which would make the area one of eight locations in the country to receive $1 billion in federal funding to research and build hydrogen energy infrastructure. The parameters of what that generation could look like and who it could impact are still up in the air, specifically whether the federal government will use these efforts and others like them to lessen the use of fossil fuels.
- Further development of nuclear energy and technologies surrounding it are up for discussion.
- As the coasts continue to consume energy and demand that energy be produced in a renewable fashion, the Midwest has become a hotbed of wind and solar production. Nebraska trails behind states like Iowa and Kansas in these areas but further buildout of wind and solar is often discussed.
FARM BUREAU POLICY
No policy on the topic of a state strategic energy plan currently exists. We have numerous policies supporting energy generation of all sorts provided they work for producers.
- Should Nebraska develop a comprehensive energy strategy to examine future energy needs in the state, ensure energy production and use can meet those needs, identify opportunities to reduce costs for ratepayers, ensure reliable energy availability, guarantee usage to support agriculture, and ensure public health?
- Should the Nebraska Farm Bureau participate in all efforts surrounding energy generation to ensure that producer impact, affordability, and reliability are considered?
- Should the Nebraska Farm Bureau oppose efforts taken to purposefully weaken the fossil fuel industry and use?