Nelson Promotes Wind Energy Development in Nebraska

Omaha, NE – June 15, 2010 – (RealEstateRama) — Today, Nebraska’s Senator Ben Nelson cosponsored legislation enabling substantial wind power development in Nebraska that could create jobs and provide Nebraskans with more electricity generated from renewable energy. Nelson has worked with Nebraska’s key utilities on the renewable energy initiative.

“Much like ethanol several decades ago, Nebraska has a tremendous potential to become a national leader in renewable energy generated from wind,” said Senator Nelson. “While Nebraska ranks 4th for potential wind energy development, we currently rank 24th in actual energy generated by wind. The legislation I’m cosponsoring could help Nebraska rural electric co-ops and our public power districts obtain needed financing to help build new renewable energy projects.

“These projects would, in turn, create good jobs for Nebraskans, boost state revenues and tap into at least one very abundant source of energy that is literally just blowing away today,” Nelson added. “It’s not too strong to say we have a rare opportunity for a win-win-win with wind.”

Nelson comments came as he cosponsored an amendment to the Tax Extenders bill under debate in the Senate offered by Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington and George Lemieux of Florida. It would expand the Section 1603 program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the stimulus bill. The section created a program enabling investor-owned utilities to receive a grant worth 30 percent of a renewable project’s cost of construction.

Currently, the provision expires on December, 31, 2010 and is only available to investor-owned utilities. The amendment would make the program available to Consumer Owned Utilities such as Nebraska Public Power District, Omaha Public Power District and Nebraska Rural Electric through December 31, 2012.

Gary Gates, President and CEO of the Omaha Public Power District, said: “OPPD greatly appreciates Senator Nelson’s support and co-sponsorship of the Cantwell-Lemieux Amendment to extend and expand the ‘Section 1603’ Clean Energy Treasury Grant Program to include public power utilities. Passage and enactment of this amendment would provide public power with access to renewable incentives that in the past have only been available to investor owned utilities which should result in expanded development of renewable energy projects by public power,”

Ron Asche, President and CEO of Nebraska Public Power, said: “We appreciate Senator Nelson’s efforts supporting renewable energy incentives for Public Power which are comparable to the incentives for private developers.”

Jay Holmquist, General Manager of the Nebraska Rural Electric Association, said: “Nebraska Rural Electric Association appreciates Senator Nelson’s ongoing efforts to give our rural electric systems the comparable flexibility to fully develop renewable generation. This amendment will give us the ability to utilize a tax grant for large-scale projects whose capital costs currently make many renewable projects unfeasible at this time.”

Nationally, a number of other public power utilities and rural electric cooperatives also could qualify for grants under amendment.

Nebraska’s non-profit public power utilities and rural electric systems —supplying electricity to the state’s roughly 1.8 million residents—do not have comparable incentives for renewable energy development that investor-owned utilities have with the federal Production Tax Credit that has allowed them to invest greater amounts in renewable energy.

This amendment Nelson cosponsored would establish parity in federal incentives for Nebraskans who receive 100 percent of their electricity from non-profit utilities. Extending the federal assistance could give them incentives needed to pursue more renewable energy projects such as wind but also solar, geothermal and biomass.

The provision would be paid for by closing a tax loophole that exists today for big oil companies. The amendment says that oil companies with annual revenues of more than $100 million can no longer count their contributions to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund as a business expense that they can use to reduce their 35 percent corporate tax rate. While not affecting production of oil and gas by small and independent producers, the provision recognizes that the majority of the companies using the write-off are major energy producers.

The amendment is supported by The Business Council for Sustainable Energy, American Wind Energy Association, Geothermal Energy Association, National Hydropower Association, Solar Energy Industries Association, Large Public Power Council, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and others.

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