Nebraska: Hassebrook, Dubas push wind energy development

Source: By DON WALTON / Lincoln Journal Star • Posted: Monday, November 18, 2013

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Annette Dubas and Chuck Hassebrook pledged their support Friday for aggressive development of wind energy in Nebraska.

Republican Tom Carlson, the third gubernatorial candidate who addressed the closing session of the 2013 Nebraska Wind Conference, said wind energy development is needed, but he believes “we ought to use the coal and oil available to us until it’s gone.”

Dubas and Carlson are state senators who are likely to deal with wind energy issues during the 2014 legislative session. Hassebrook is a former University of Nebraska regent and former executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs.

Development of wind energy offers the opportunity for economic development in the state, both Hassebrook and Dubas said

Public power districts, which are charged with the responsibility of providing reliable energy at the lowest possible cost, need to factor in economic impact, jobs, tax benefits and environmental impact in making decisions about generation and transmission of electricity, Dubas said.

“We need to make sure public power understands the incredible economic potential of wind energy,” she said.

Hassebrook said public power districts ought to factor in “not just cost, but environmental considerations and economic development opportunities.

Recently, the Nebraska Public Power District rejected proposals to increase its wind energy purchases, suggesting it would be more feasible to do that in the futur

Carlson said he “understand(s) its decision,” pointing to NPPD’s mandate to provide the most economic energy rates.

“I think we need to help wind be very economical,” he said, “and it’s getting better.”

Both Dubas and Hassebrook pointed to Iowa as a neighboring state that has developed wind energy and reaped economic benefits.

“We are one of the top three or four states with wind energy potential,” Dubas said. “It only makes sense to capitalize on this.”

Hassebrook said the state needs to improve incentives to “maximize benefits” that can be acquired through wind energy development.

And, he said, there’s also a fundamental responsibility to play a role in addressing climate change.

Lagging wind energy development in Nebraska is the result of “a failure of leadership,” Hassebrook said.