‘Husker Power Plan’ aims to cut greenhouse emissions while keeping electric costs low, creating jobs

Source: By Paul Hammel, Omaha Wold Herald • Posted: Thursday, January 18, 2018

LINCOLN — A coalition of environmental groups unveiled a “Husker Power Plan” on Wednesday that they say will cut greenhouse emissions by 58 percent over five years while keeping electric costs low and creating jobs.

Duane Hovorka of the Izaak Walton League said during a press conference at the State Capitol that the Lincoln Electric System and the Omaha Public Power District have taken good “first steps” toward using more renewable energy. But, he said, overall, the state’s public power districts need to get more aggressive in promoting energy conservation, and switching to wind and solar energy. Doing that, he said, would create local jobs.

Notably, electricity from renewable resources comprised 30 percent of retail sales at OPPD in 2017, up from 13 percent in 2016. That number will top 50 percent by 2020, bringing it closer to LES, where nearly half of the electrical load — 48 percent — comes from renewables today.

 Columbus-based Nebraska Public Power District is lagging behind those two large utilities; about 18 percent of those sales are coming from renewables, despite its workhorse Cooper nuclear plant in southeast Nebraska making up about 44 percent of such sales.

The utility has argued that nuclear’s carbon-free emissions should get more credit than intermittent wind- and solar-powered renewable resources.

The Husker Power Plan calls for doubling the state’s use of wind power over the next five years and adding 129 megawatts of community solar energy projects. The plan, done by the consultant Sommer Energy, also recommends aggressive work to reduce electric consumption by 2 percent a year.

 Hovorka said ratepayers should urge their local utility to adopt the recommendations in the plan. No action by the Nebraska Legislature is needed, he added