Senator Blood says alternative energy resources need expansion

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LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraska's Net Metering laws are currently very restrictive. The current law only allows for the development of 25 kilowatts (kw) of solar restricting most businesses from being able to participate and places a cap on each respective utility at 1% for the amount of renewables that can be developed. This potentially stifles emerging industry in Nebraska. Senator Carol Blood hopes to address this issue with LB 87 and raise the net metering limit. The bill will be heard before the Natural Resources Committee on February 22, 2017 at 1:30 in Room 1525 at the Nebraska Capital in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Blood explains that, "net-metering in Nebraska allows a customer to offset their energy usage in kilowatt/hours (kwhr) at a 1 to 1 ratio up to 25 kw. When you create extra energy above and beyond what you are using at your residence or business the excess energy goes back onto the utility electric grid. The excess energy back onto the grid is then net-metered."

Eight years ago the Legislature, in an agreement with utility companies and other stakeholders, determined the value of that excess net-metered energy would be at the utility's avoided cost. Avoided cost is the cost the utility is expected to incur for its customers in providing generation service to its customer. Avoided cost is very low compared to the retail price reflected on our residential or business utility bills.

LB 87 allows mid-sized businesses to generate locally-produced renewable energy to power their day-to-day operations. Prior to LB 87 state law only permitted residences and small businesses to offset their energy usage. Blood states that, "we should not discriminate against mid-sized businesses that are asking to pursue solar generation." She further stated that "LB 87 would significantly increase the amount of business for the solar industry in Nebraska. A 25 kilowatt project is valued at approximately $85,000 and creates about 3 jobs over a 10-14 day time-frame. Expanding to 100 kw will allow for more new revenues and skilled jobs in our state!" Unfortunately this will not cover all the needs of larger energy users, but Blood believes there is a separate discussion needed for this and it seemed more reasonable to take small steps, which would be to allow mid-sized businesses to develop their resources, and save money!

For years farmers and ranchers in Nebraska have also been inquiring about how to use solar for irrigation. After much dialogue on this issue it was deemed too challenging to create a special rate for pivot irrigation net-metering, plus it is often not feasible to put solar panels in the middle of a corn field. However it would be very simple to allow for a little larger solar project (only up to 100 kw's as LB 87 proposes) to produce energy for additional, but less feasible electrical meters. This would help ensure public power customer-owners maximum savings while being able to site projects on the most reasonable location. This also works for urban businesses as well that may have several meters, but may not have feasible development sites due to issues such as an old roof or tall trees.

The legislative body discussed a larger sized net-metering program eight years ago when the original Net Metering bill was passed into law. 25 kw was the compromise. There have been no significant issues to date. Now is the time to allow for more business in Nebraska by updating the net-metering statute.

For additional information on LB 87, contact Senator Carol Blood at 402-471-2627 or her cell at 402-517-1446. You can contact the office via email at cblood@leg.ne.gov or visit her official website at http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist03/.