NEW: Wind, Nuclear at Air Pollution
A new analysis by Nebraska Wildlife Federation shows how adding wind and solar energy reduces carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases, and why closing the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station will increase greenhouse gas pollution unless Omaha Public Power District takes action to add more clean energy to its system.
Download here: Energy Brief SPP Wind and Nuclear June 2016
The analysis shows how by adding wind and solar energy, investing in energy efficiency, and adding other clean energy solutions, Omaha Public Power District could offset the increase in greenhouse gas pollution and provide jobs in Nebraska to help offset some of the jobs lost with closure of the power plant.
Clean, Wildlife-Friendly Energy
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 is found in fish in Nebraska in levels high enough to cause state officials to issue fish consumption warnings.
Carbon and other greenhouse gases from coal, oil and natural gas are already having an impact on our climate. The overwhelming body of scientists in the U.S. and around the world warn 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 committed to meeting the expected growth in its future demand with energy efficiency and renewable energy, and has substantially increased funding for its Sustainable Energy Program. In 2013, it made a commitment to a 100 MW wind farm, and changed its solar policy to pay customers more for solar energy they generate. In 2014 LES announced plans to add two new wind farms and build the first utility-scale solar energy power plant in Nebraska, moves that would save LES customers $429 million over the life of the contracts. Lincoln Electric System now expects to get 48% of its power from renewable resources by 2016.
* Omaha Public Power District made a commitment to a 200 MW wind farm in 2012, and another 400 MW of wind in 2013. In 2014 the District announced a plan to phase out the burning of coal at its North Omaha power plant, and use energy efficiency and demand management investments to reduce peak demand by 300 MW by 2023. Omaha Public Power District now expects to get 33% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2018.
* In 2013, Nebraska Public Power District turned down proposals from wind farm developers for wind energy at some of the lowest prices in the country — down near 2 cents per kilowatt hour. The decision likely cost Nebraska Public Power District customers millions in potential savings. NPPD management said the utility would stick with its current plan to get just 10% of its electricity from wind energy by 2020. With hydroelectric power from existing power plants, NPPD would be getting about 18% of its power from renewable resources. In 2015, NPPD announced a partnership with Monolith Materials to re-power one unit at its Sheldon Station power plant from coal to burn hydrogen. The hydrogen would be produced by a new carbon black production facility to be built by Monolith next to Sheldon Station.
Clearly we have far to go. While other Nebraska utilities are increasing their commitment to low cost energy efficiency, Nebraska Public Power District has refused to substantially increase funding for its energy efficiency program. Rural public power districts that buy their power wholesale from NPPD – and whose residents would gain the most from new Nebraska wind farms – have been some of the strongest opponents of clean energy solutions.
In August, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency released new rules that would, for the first time, require existing electric power plants to reduce the carbon pollution they produce by 32% nationally by 2030. Nebraska and other states have broad flexibility to craft plans to meet specific state standards. The Federation will take an active role in making sure Nebraska’s plan delivers real reductions in carbon pollution at the same time it delivers cleaner air, in-state jobs, and benefits for Nebraska communities.
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.
For more information, visit our Clean Energy Nebraska web site.
Images: US Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory