Jump on wind energy train

For too long Nebraskans have had to rely almost entirely on importing energy from other states.

Not only have we sent our hard-earned money to these states, but all we’ve received in return is a dirty and aging energy portfolio. While we bring in coal that pollutes our air and water, we are contributing to the economies and improving their quality of life in other states.

Wind energy is a prime competitor to coal, the primary fossil fuel we rely on in Nebraska. Prices for wind energy are at an all-time low, and it is a homegrown and renewable energy source.

Nebraska ranks near the top among the states when it comes to wind energy potential, but we currently don’t even make the top 20 list for wind energy development.

Some of our state utilities have recently decided to make a change, choosing to invest in wind energy, rather than to sink more of our money into aging coal plants. In July, Lincoln Electric Systems made the decision to double its wind purchase, and Omaha Public Power District did the same in mid-October.

These districts have acted as leaders in Nebraska, doubling their investment in renewable energy with just these recent wind energy purchases. LES and OPPD should be applauded for these recent investments, as they were fulfilling their duty to the citizens that are both their customers and their owners.

There has never been a better time to purchase wind energy. The price is at an all-time low, making it a sound economic decision to lock in those contracts now.

Sadly, the evidence shows that we’re being left behind in the rest of the state, as other public power districts — chief among them, NPPD — have refused to diversify their energy mix. Getting a good mix is essential to keep rates low, especially as the price of wind drops and the price of fossil fuels continues to fluctuate.

Six of the states with lower rates than ours also beat us on the amount of wind energy they produce. Even Wyoming, a coal-producing state, generates more energy from wind than Nebraska. These states have decided to add several different power sources, helping them keep prices low despite market changes.

We don’t have to sit back and watch other states pass us by, though.

We are third in the country for wind energy potential, and we have public power that allows us to make our voices heard. NPPD has passed up the opportunity, but LES and OPPD have decided to take advantage of the low price of wind energy. Smaller public power districts and city utilities can do the same.

Nebraskans aren’t just customers of public power, we’re also owners. We can tell our public power districts and city utilities, including the city of Hastings, that we want them to be leaders in our state, and that we don’t want to rely heavily on fuel sources that continue to rise in price while others keep dropping.

Our state needs energy leaders who care about the long-term future of our state, otherwise we’ll continue to be penny wise and pound foolish in generating energy for our communities.

Lu Nelson
energy policy intern Center for Rural Affairs

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