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Neb. renewable energy bills face tough battle

At a time when renewable energy is all the rage, one of the windiest states in the nation seems unlikely to spur new projects because of a tight budget with little wiggle room. ...And Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue, who leads the legislative committee that sets tax policy, said while wind energy incentives and the like are important, "I don't think we're going to be able to do much this year."

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- At a time when renewable energy is all the rage, one of the windiest states in the nation seems unlikely to spur new projects because of a tight budget with little wiggle room.

State senators introduced measures Tuesday to provide tax credits, teachers, a task force and other ways to promote alternative energy such as wind power, solar power and natural gas.

"It's about picking priorities and looking long-term," said Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, who introduced a bill (LB455) to give public power districts a tax cut for generating power from renewable sources.

But Gov. Dave Heineman has told lawmakers that state government must tighten its belt as the stock market plummets and tax revenue falls.

And Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue, who leads the legislative committee that sets tax policy, said while wind energy incentives and the like are important, "I don't think we're going to be able to do much this year."

"We are operating under serious fiscal constraint, and you have to weigh those bills against education, against behavioral health," Cornett said.

That's just another lame excuse that keeps Nebraska at the back of the pack for... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- At a time when renewable energy is all the rage, one of the windiest states in the nation seems unlikely to spur new projects because of a tight budget with little wiggle room.

State senators introduced measures Tuesday to provide tax credits, teachers, a task force and other ways to promote alternative energy such as wind power, solar power and natural gas.

"It's about picking priorities and looking long-term," said Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, who introduced a bill (LB455) to give public power districts a tax cut for generating power from renewable sources.

But Gov. Dave Heineman has told lawmakers that state government must tighten its belt as the stock market plummets and tax revenue falls.

And Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue, who leads the legislative committee that sets tax policy, said while wind energy incentives and the like are important, "I don't think we're going to be able to do much this year."

"We are operating under serious fiscal constraint, and you have to weigh those bills against education, against behavioral health," Cornett said.

That's just another lame excuse that keeps Nebraska at the back of the pack for renewable energy production, said Robert Byrnes, president of the Nebraska Renewable Energy Association.

"All these other states are finding money," Byrnes said. "We're falling further behind by virtue of us doing nothing."

Several wind farm projects are in development across the state, but Nebraska has relatively few wind turbines at work.

State officials say the main reason is that most federal incentives for wind energy have been available only to private companies.

For example, a federal income tax credit for the production of renewable energy doesn't help Nebraska's public power districts, which don't pay income taxes.

Nebraska is the only state where all electric customers are served by publicly owned utilities.

Nordquist's bill tries to tackle that problem. It offers a 1.9-cent tax credit for each kilowatt-hour generated from renewable sources, and the money would be credited toward sales tax that the power districts pay. The bill also proposes a sales tax exemption for equipment needed to produce and transmit power from renewable sources.

Nordquist said he doesn't know what the bill will cost.

Other renewable energy bills introduced Tuesday include:

-- A bill (LB421) from Nordquist to suspend the collection of sales tax on natural gas used as motor vehicle fuel for five years.

It's based on an effort by Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens, who is pushing a combination of natural gas and wind energy to free the United States from dependence on foreign oil. Pickens calls for erecting wind turbines to generate electricity, replacing the more than 20 percent of U.S. power produced from natural gas.

The freed-up natural gas then could be used to power vehicles until other technologies such as battery power can be improved.

The measure, Nordquist said, would have minimal cost because there's almost no one currently using natural gas to fuel vehicles in Nebraska.

"It's a short-term plan to maybe get this industry off the ground, and after five years if it doesn't work, we take it away," Nordquist said.

-- A measure (LB436) from Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm to make it easier for customers who generate their own power -- for example, through wind turbines or solar panels -- to sell excess power back to utility companies. It's called "net metering," and renewable energy proponents say the current system isn't fair.

-- A bill (LB437) from Haar to create a task force to advance wind energy.

-- A bill from Haar (LB492), under which the Legislature would pay millions of dollars to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to recruit and pay for three new faculty members to research and teach about wind energy.

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On the Net:

Nebraska Legislature: http://www.nebraskalegislature.gov


Source: http://www.hdnews.net/wires...

JAN 20 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/18691-neb-renewable-energy-bills-face-tough-battle
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