Wind for Export

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman signs the state's "wind for export" law

Nebraska is unique in that all residents are served by locally owned utilities—public power utilities, rural electric cooperatives, and municipal utilities. All of these different types of utilities are owned by their customers. The goal of all Nebraska utilities is to provide their customers with low-cost, reliable electricity in a manner that respects the environment. The profit motive never comes into play. Decisions are not influenced by the potential to make a buck. Instead, Nebraska’s utilities focus on how their actions will affect customers and their electric bills.

Being a locally owned utility carries some advantages compared to being an investor-owned, private utility. However, many of the federal funds available to private utilities to lower the cost to develop wind energy generation are not available to public power utilities. Therefore, Nebraska has taken a slower pace than some of its neighboring states when it comes to investing in wind energy. We want to ensure the long-term decisions we make to serve customers tomorrow do not conflict with our goal of providing the most affordable electric service today.

Because Nebraska’s utilities exist only to serve Nebraskans, the state does not allow its utilities to engage in any activity that would primarily benefit utilities in other states. There’s no fence around Nebraska—we buy and sell power with out-of-state utilities every day—but our first objective is to meet the electricity needs of Nebraskans.

To help promote wind power in our state and lessen its potential financial impact on customers, Nebraska utilities helped develop and supported passage of a “wind for export” bill in 2010. Click here to read the text of the bill. This law allows entities other than public power utilities to build wind farms in our state. Nebraska utilities have the option of purchasing some of the electricity from these facilities, and the remaining electricity must be sold outside the state to markets where it is needed.

Night at the Ainsworth Wind Farm

Reaching common ground is important. During the 2010 Legislature, Nebraska’s utilities and wind power developers came together to find solutions and jointly support the “wind for export” bill that was eventually passed. Besides granting private developers the option of building export-oriented wind farms in Nebraska, it protects you from getting stuck with the bill if that wind energy is not needed in our state.  Private developers assume the financial risks of any “wind for export” facility they construct.

The new law also creates a framework to address the difficult issue of transmission, which is needed to transport the wind energy from Nebraska to other states. At this time, there is little spare capacity on the state’s transmission lines. So exporting wind power likely will require building new transmission lines—which can be expensive and controversial.

Since Nebraska’s utilities are not in business to make a profit, we won’t chase a project based solely on its potential to make money. We only pursue projects that that are in the best interest of our customers. Because serving Nebraskans is our first, last, and only purpose.