Clean, Wildlife-Friendly Energy
The production, transportation and use of energy drives America’s economy, but it can also take a huge toll on wildlife.
Mining coal and producing gas and oil destroys habitat and can fragment migratory routes. Large transmission lines can be a hazard for migrating birds. The acids, toxic metals, and soot from the burning of coal and oil can pollute waters and sicken wildlife and people. Mercury from the burning of coal and other sources is found in fish in Nebraska in high enough levels to cause state officials to issue warnings.
Carbon and other greenhouse gases from coal, oil and natural gas are already having an impact on our climate, and the overwhelming body of scientists in the U.S. and around the world are warning that we must substantially reduce our use of fossil fuels – starting now — if we are to have hope of avoiding the worst climate change projections.
Fortunately, Nebraska is awash in clean, renewable energy like wind and solar. A huge amount of the energy we use is wasted due to inefficient lighting and motors, out-dated equipment, homes and buildings that need insulation and weatherization, and outmoded systems. Energy efficiency is the cheapest way to get new electrical capacity and energy, and the fastest way to reduce the air pollution from fossil fuels.
For the past several years, Nebraska Wildlife Federation has been in the middle of a growing network of wildlife, farm, environmental, faith, civic and other groups working to move Nebraska’s public power electric utilities away from coal and other fossil fuels and towards clean, wildlife-friendly energy like energy efficiency, solar, wind.
The work of the Federation and our allies is paying off. Lincoln Electric System has committed to meeting the expected growth in its future demand with energy efficiency and renewable energy, added energy from several low-cost wind farms, changed its solar policy to pay customers more for solar energy they generate, and built the state’s first utility-scale solar farm near Lincoln.
Lincoln Electric System is now getting about 48% the electricity it needs for its customer-owners from renewable resources — and saving them hundreds of millions of dollars.
Omaha Public Power District made a commitment to a 200 MW wind farm in 2012, and another 400 MW of wind in 2013. It committed to better managing its demand. The District now expects to get 33% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2018, and that percentage is likely to increase in future years.
Yet we have far to go. Nebraska Public Power District turned down wind energy in the fall of 2013 that, at 2¢ per kWh, would have been some of the lowest cost wind energy in the country. NPPD is working with Monolith Materials to re-fuel one of its smaller coal-fired units to burn hydrogen, but has refused to provide adequate funding for its energy efficiency program. Rural public power districts that buy their power wholesale from NPPD – and whose residents would gain from new Nebraska wind farms and lower electricity costs – have been some of the strongest opponents of clean energy solutions.
Our work will continue. The huge benefits to Nebraska communities represented by clean energy solutions, and the huge risks to our environment and our children’s future from continuing our addiction to fossil fuels, are too important to ignore.