The Scotts Bluff County Commissioners meeting on Oct. 16 yielded confusion amongst residents as well as the commissioners.
Director of Building and Zoning Bill Mabin presented two items in the commissioners meeting.
The first item was a zoning change for an agricultural area to become a rural residential area. The second item was a preliminary plat for the Alderson Subdivision.
Afterward, Mabin brought forth information regarding the amendments to the Scotts Bluff County Comprehensive Zoning Plan to add an energy element.
Mabin said there are three components to the amendment that the State of Nebraska mandated.
The first component is to ID energy use by sector. Mabin started with residential, saying that 62 percent of Scotts Bluff County residents use natural gas for home heating, 26 percent use electricity and roughly 8 percent use propane, according to a study done between 2011-15.
Scotts Bluff County is above trend in almost every category, which Mabin said amazed him.
The commercial energy sector increased energy use by 8 percent in the 20 years from 1995 to 2015, though it did decrease about 2 percent from 2014-15, said Mabin.
Unlike housing, commercial use is generally lighting and heating. Mabin also said the commercial sector did have an increase in renewable energy of about 14 percent in 2014 and 2015.
Mabin said the industrial sector increased 112 percent in the 20-year timeframe of 1995-2015. Forty-two percent of Nebraska’s energy consumption was in the industrial sector in 2014 even with a 14 percent decrease in 2013.
The second component of the amendment is concerned with recognizing the utilization of renewable energy resources.
Mabin said wind power is obviously an advantage in western Nebraska. He also said that, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, wind power is capable of meeting 118 times the state’s current electricity demand.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, Nebraska has one of the best wind resources in the United States, Mabin said. He also mentioned that 92 percent of Nebraska has adequate wind speeds for a utility scale wind farm.
Aside from wind, Nebraska also has good resources for solar power, especially in the Panhandle. Mabin said Nebraska is ranked 13th among states with solar energy potential.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, the cost of the panels decreased nearly 80 percent from 2009-13 Mabin said, thus making solar power an efficient method of providing electrical needs of single-family residences.
A third renewable resource Nebraska has in its hands is hydropower.
Mabin talked about how in 2014 Nebraska consumed 11 trillion BTUs, which accounted for only 1 percent of all the renewable energy used. Mabin said there is not a lot of hope for increasing the size of the hydropower scope.
The third component of the amendment is to describe energy conservation methods that benefit the community.
Mabin said the Nebraska energy plan presented in 2011 offered 14 strategies for meeting the objectives. He said he was going to offer three that he thinks will be popular.
Those three are to continue supporting the Nebraska Public Power system, improve municipal wastewater strategies and water quality, and to continue building Nebraska’s wind energy through public and private partner relationships.
Mabin said there are several grants for wind and solar power that would be available to Nebraska.
County Commissioner Mark Masterton questioned whether these amendments were mandatory, to which Mabin said they were.
Masterton and the other commissioners said they didn’t fully understand the proposed amendments. They stated several times that they wanted to set up a time where the details could be further explained.
A concerned citizen at the meeting said he likes the concept of renewable energy, but that more definition of the amendment would be nice.
After much discussion, the commissioners voted 2-2 on the amendment, causing it to fail.
The amendment will be sent back to the Planning Commission and eventually will be brought back before the Scotts Bluff County Commissioners.
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