The Legislature gave 25-3 first-stage approval Wednesday to a bill designed to spur development of wind energy in Nebraska.
The proposal by Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha would enhance state tax credits for new renewable-energy electric generation projects, including solar, but the emphasis clearly was on catching up with neighboring states that have developed their wind resources.
Nordquist said the payoff for Nebraska can be measured in terms of economic investment, income for landowners, increased local property tax revenue and added state revenue, as well as environmental protection.
Action on the bill coincided with observance of Earth Day.
“Either we bury our heads in the ground or we put investments in the ground,” Nordquist said. Provide enhanced tax credits, he said, “and now we’re in the game.”
“We can welcome billions of dollars of investment or turn our backs and let it go to neighboring states,” Nordquist said.
The proposed tax credit contained in the bill (LB423) could be selected based on kilowatt-hours of power generated by a new project or as a one-time credit equal to 30 percent of the cost of construction – and it could be transferred.
The transfer authority is viewed as critical in terms of funding and developing smaller projects.
Opponents argued that the bill would cost the state revenue in the form of tax credits and that development of wind energy would in fact diminish the environment by marking the landscape with wind generation towers.
Concerns were also raised about the impact of renewable energy on comparably low electric rates in the nation’s only 100 percent public power state.
“An uneconomic source of energy has impact on rates,” Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte said.
Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus argued that “transferability of credits (is) very poor tax policy.”
But without that transferability, Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg said, “smaller projects don’t work.”
Nebraska now counts nearly 500 wind turbines at 14 primary sites in the state, Williams said, and two potential solar projects in his legislative district are waiting to move forward until senators act on LB423.
Groene described the wind towers as “a 400-foot monstrosity, blinking and blinking, woofing and woofing and woofing” and destroying the view of Nebraska’s open landscape.
Those towers are “the last thing I want to see on my horizon,” Sen. David Schnoor of Scribner said.
Nordquist said senators should take into account the impact of proposed federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations that will limit carbon emissions in a state that largely depends on coal-fired electric generation plants and begin to “diversify our energy portfolio” now.
Sen. John McCollister of Omaha won approval of an amendment that would attach a 2021 sunset date to provisions in the bill and direct the state Department of Revenue to issue reports on the impact of the legislation if it is enacted.
Nordquist accepted the amendment, which was adopted on a 31-0 vote, and said he is open to adjusting its language at second-round consideration to meet concerns raised by some opponents of the bill.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding