Legislative winds of change blowing

Monday, March 22, 2010

The winds of change are a blowing in the Legislature.

Last week, LB 1048, which allows for the development of private wind and other renewable energy for export to other states advanced to the second round of debate on the floor of the Legislature.

The Natural Resources Committee amendment was adopted, which became the bill, and another amendment filed by Sen. Langemeier to allow new certified renewable export facilities to negotiate power purchase agreements with public utilities advanced with a 41-0 vote. LB 1048 advanced to Select File with a strong 44-0 vote with my support.

Wind and renewable energy ideas have been in development for several years and it was good to see all the hard work payoff with enough problems resolved to begin allowing the investment and development in large-scale wind and other renewable energy generation for export. I believe it will be good for rural Nebraska.

Introduced by the Natural Resources Committee, Legislative Bill 1048 provides a way for the exportation of renewable energy, like wind, without influencing public power and ratepayers. It defines certified renewable export facilities as facilities that:

Use solar, wind, biomass or landfill gas to generate electricity;

Are constructed and owned by a private entity; and

Have made power purchase agreements of initially 10-years or more for sale of at least 90 percent or more to customers outside of Nebraska

New facilities would apply with the Nebraska Power Review Board. They can receive a conditional approval by meeting the definition of a certified renewable export facility, and provide public benefits like including economic development. Final approval comes with a few more agreements and the new facility is determined to have no materially detrimental effect on rates paid by ratepayers. In other words, it does not harm Public Power.

One of the major issues that had to be worked out was the authority of public power utilities to use eminent domain that was put in place when public power came into existence. An approved certified facility would be exempt from eminent domain, but if they failed to meet the requirements, a motion could be filed with the Power Review Board to decertify them. Such a facility would have a year to be certified again, or they would be open to eminent domain by public power.

LB 1048 would exempt real and personal property used directly in the generation of electricity using wind as the fuel source. Instead, the bill establish a nameplate capacity tax of $3,518 per megawatt of energy produced for an approved facility, but exempt turbines owned by government entities, cooperatives, and net-metering customers. This nameplate capacity tax would be redistributed to those who would have normally received property tax revenue.

Nebraska is one of the top 10 windiest states in the nation; we should be moving forward with wind development. I believe this is a great step forward in promoting economic development while at the same time protecting public power.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding this bill or any issue please call my office at 402-471-2805 or for more information you can view my legislative Web site at http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist44/.

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