A wind energy bill proposed by Senator John McCollister of Omaha is being introduced in the Unicameral.
The bill, LB-824, would deregulate development of private wind energy and remove barriers that discourage investment in Nebraska wind projects.
Robert Byrnes, president of Nebraska Renewable Energy Systems in Lyons, is skeptical about the measure accomplishing anything.
“This sounds like more of the same talk we’ve heard from the legislature over the last decade in terms of wind energy,” Byrnes says. “They’ve taken very small steps, incremental measures. They have not done anything to change core policy of the state and as a result, this is going to be another in a series of bills with much fanfare but in the end have resulted in essentially nothing.”
Byrnes says there are many potential problems when deregulation is done in a public power state.
“When you open things up and unregulate private development in a public power state, that can obviously be used as a two-edged sword,” he says. “Private, out-of-state, out-of-country interests can come in, take our resources and export it. That’s not in the best interests of Nebraska.”
Byrnes says Nebraska needs a viable energy policy in order for wind energy development to successfully advance and move the state forward.
“They have no coherent energy policy at a state level, so basically the public power utilities dictate energy policy in the state, not the legislature,” he says. “Senator (Ken) Schilz (of Ogallala) did bring forward a bill last session to require an energy policy document by the Nebraska Energy Office. Whether that gets legislators more involved in creating policy instead of receiving it from the utilities also remains to be seen.”
Senator McCollister says his measure will be a boost to rural towns by providing property tax relief and spurring economic development. Opponents are concerned about the possible economic risks of deregulation.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton