Nebraska utility criticized for wind energy vote

Source: Associated Press • Posted: Tuesday, October 15, 2013

COLUMBUS, Neb. (AP) — The state’s largest power utility has rejected a proposal to buy up to 200 additional megawatts of wind energy by the end of the year, drawing fierce criticism from wind energy proponents.

The Nebraska Public Power District board voted 6-3 Friday against the additional wind energy buy.

The utility will continue to pursue its goal of generating 10 percent of electric power with renewable energy, primarily wind, by 2020, NPPD officials said.

NPPD CEO and President Pat Pope said the utility’s plants already produce more energy than customers currently use, and that while NPPD can sell some of its excess energy into the wholesale market, “there are limitations and risks associated with that.”

“We have to remember, wind does not always blow in Nebraska, and thus we need to keep available the generation facilities that can provide electricity when needed,” Pope said. “Until technology provides a means of storing electricity, we cannot rely on wind energy to serve our customers.”

But environmental groups and unions criticized the vote.

Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen cited estimates from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that show 200 megawatts of wind energy development would provide between $174 million and $328 million for Nebraska.

“Nebraskans will miss this enormous economic development opportunity at a time when rural landowners and communities are hungry for these new revenue streams from new jobs and tax revenues,” Hansen said. “Harvesting Nebraska’s world class wind energy, ranked the third best in the nation, is a win-win for our economy and our environment.”

The Nebraska Sierra Club said NPPD’s board shirked “its legal obligation to provide electricity at the lowest reasonable cost.”

“Instead of being there for its customer-owners, NPPD decided to continue to send millions of Nebraskans’ energy dollars to Wyoming to fuel its big coal plants rather than investing in local, clean, affordable wind energy,” said Ken Winston, the Nebraska Sierra Club’s policy advocate.