This legislative session provided several milestones for the Nebraska Sierra Club. Renewable energy was given priority by the Natural Resources Committee, two renewable energy bills were passed by the Legislature and the wind energy study was also given priority. LB 436, the net metering bill introduced by Senator Ken Haar was made a committee priority bill, passed by the Legislature, and signed into law by the Governor.Â Net metering allows consumers with small renewable energy generators to receive credit for electricity they put on the grid. This provides an incentive for investment in renewable energy generation equipment. LB 436 represents a significant step forward in renewable energy policy. It creates a statewide net metering policy, provides one to one credit for energy generated up to the amount used, protection against additional utility charges and unnecessary performance standards and provides is a prohibition against additional liability insurance.
The Legislature also passed LB 561, which was introduced by Senator Lathrop. There are three important components in LB 561. First, it permits the public power districts to waive their eminent domain authority for renewable generation facilities. Currently, the public power districts have the ability to condemn private generation facilities. Private wind developers were concerned about developing wind farms if their facilities could be taken away from them. The second provision allows renewable generation facilities to be exempted from meeting the least cost and public convenience and necessity criteria of the Power Review Board. The third provision changes the ownership and financing of Community Based Energy Development (CBED) systems, which is intended to significantly expand the opportunities for wind development in Nebraska. I have been told that passage of LB 561 has generated plans for wind development from several companies that had previously been unwilling to invest in the state.
We had concerns about the original form of the ownership and financing amendment to LB 561, and generated calls in opposition to that amendment. However, there was a meeting which was attended by Dan Juhl from Minnesota, one of the original architects of the CBED concept. At that meeting a new amendment was circulated and CBED supporters indicated they could live with this amendment. After that we agreed to support the new amendment and the bill.
LB 83, the wind generation and transmission interim study has been given top priority by the Natural Resources Committee. The Sierra Club has been named as the lead organization for environmental input and I have been named the contact person in that role. This study is a wide ranging examination of issues related to wind development and transmission. It is likely to produce a lot of information for many different sources. I also expect there will be several hearings in different parts of the state. I will keep folks posted as things begin to develop.