Library filed under Taxes & Subsidies from Nebraska
Presently wind energy developers are free to build wind farms in Nebraska after going through the Power Review Board process. The push for wind tax credits is powered by greed and fueled by money from special interest lobbyists (the lobbyist cartoon under the wind-tax editorial was very apt). Developers want the taxpayers, through tax credits, to pay for 25 percent of the estimated $2.5 million cost of each wind turbine, thus guaranteeing the investors an immediate profit.
Opponents argued that the state shouldn't subsidize wind energy and contended the bill would cut into state revenue by allowing wind farms to sell their tax credits to other profit-making businesses to generate cash. Some criticized the turbines as an eyesore in rural areas and complain about the whooshing and thumping noises made by the spinning blades.
But Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, who led the opposition to the bill, said Nebraska doesn’t need additional energy and argued that wind farm development would harm the state’s public power system.
The Legislature appeared poised Monday to place a $75 million limit on enhanced state tax credits designed to promote development of new wind energy projects in Nebraska, but the ultimate fate of the bill remained in doubt.
But opponents questioned whether the state would see a direct benefit from such projects. Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus criticized the proposed use of transferable tax credits for wind farms. The transferable credits could be sold other companies at a discount, allowing the wind company to generate cash while the purchasing company lowers its tax liability. Schumacher submitted an amendment that would allow companies to sell their tax credits at only a maximum 3 percent discount.
A renewable energy tax credit bill has advanced out of a legislative committee and is on it's way to the floor for debate.
State senators announced Friday that they will introduce five bills intended to advance Nebraska's renewable energy industry, increase economic development and provide property tax benefits.
As they crafted the law, lawmakers included a tax credit for a wind-energy farm in Knox County that had already paid property taxes. Without the credit, the court said, Elkhorn Ridge Wind would have been the only wind-energy firm in Nebraska to have to pay both taxes.
"I've made it very clear that Nebraskans deserve tax relief first ... before you ought to be considering a bill like that, and especially providing special tax breaks for a Kansas company so they can ship Nebraska energy" out of state, Heineman said during a conference call with reporters. "You ought to ask him why that makes sense."
"It is very disappointing that the Legislature's Revenue Committee has decided to provide out-of-state wind energy developers a tax break, but the Revenue Committee refuses to provide much-needed tax relief to Nebraska families, Nebraska seniors, Nebraska veterans and Nebraska small-business owners," Heineman said.
The governor and State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha on Monday urged state lawmakers to hold off on passing new tax exemptions while they work on overhauling the whole tax system. If the Legislature's Revenue Committee heeds their calls, two bills that would add wind farms to the state's business tax incentive programs would be sunk.
COLUMBUS, Neb. - For now, the plant is busy: cranes maneuvering massive pieces of steel, sparks flying off welders' torches, trucks pulling up to pick up one of the towers lined up outside.
The Revenue Committee must weigh the benefits of LB 1033 against other bills introduced this year to promote economic development, she said. Senators must determine how those bills fit with state spending priorities and Gov. Dave Heineman's $130 million-a-year tax cut package.
Concerns about cost and preserving the strength of the state's public power system could limit any new wind-power incentives. In a survey, many senators appeared reluctant to do anything that might jeopardize the state's relatively low electricity rates and some expressed doubts about whether Nebraska's electricity grid is ready to deliver wind power from rural areas, where it would be generated, to urban areas, where the demand is higher.
At this time last year, Nebraska advocates for wind energy were bracing for another legislative session of mostly futile efforts to nudge public power out of its resistance to privately developed wind projects. Now, the Nebraska Public Power District, the state's largest public utility, is negotiating with three private developers on projects totaling 150 megawatts a figure that would dwarf the state's current production of 73 MW per year. ...But not everyone is excited about the push into wind. ...Southern [Power District] spokeswoman LeAnne Doose said the utility's board is concerned about installing a traditionally more costly form of power at a time when utilities are passing double-digit rate increases. Doose said she has seen a groundswell of support for wind energy, but she's concerned that utilities might bow to popular pressure rather than coming at wind with "a common-sense approach." "It's coming," Doose said. "We just hope that it's done in more of a sensible way."
State lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to a measure to encourage wind farms in Nebraska. The bill would permit public power districts to work with private developers and landowners to build electricity-generating wind turbines. All 49 lawmakers voted in favor of Legislative Bill 629, which now goes to Gov. Dave Heineman for his signature. Under the plan, developers and private equity firms would work with rural Nebraskans to build wind farms and collect federal incentives for alternative energy production. When the incentives expire after 10 years, the Nebraskans would attain full ownership of the projects.
Filibusters in the Nebraska Legislature can't compare with the wind blowing through Boone County fields east of here. New wind maps prove what many Boone County residents have known for years - the wind really does blow harder and more often in these hills. Now, with a wind farm being proposed for the Petersburg area, that wind could become another crop to be harvested and put some extra cash in farmers' pockets. Jim Jenkins, Nebraska representative for Third Planet Windpower of Bad Axe, Mich., stresses that the company is still in the early phases of negotiations and discussion with regard to "the business structure' for its proposed investment of up to $170 million in a wind farm east of here.
Proponents call it the biggest new idea in wind energy in Nebraska in decades: wind turbines dotting the hills, harnessing wind for the financial benefit of members of a local community. A plan in front of a legislative committee would offer a sales tax exemption for community-based energy development groups — co-ops of Nebraska residents, tribal councils and even school districts could qualify. The exemption would apply to the cost of materials used to manufacture, install, construct, repair or replace wind turbines that convert wind to usable energy. It’s “a good investment in Nebraska’s rural communities,” said state Sen. Don Preister of Bellevue, who introduced the bill (LB648). The Legislature’s Revenue Committee held a public hearing on Thursday.
Wind farms in Kansas, Nebraska and California will play a role in Colorado Springs Utilities’ compliance with a voter-approved mandate on renewable energy. But homes and businesses in Colorado Springs won’t be getting electricity produced by harnessing wind in those places. Instead, renewable energy credits will be logged into Colorado Springs Utilities’ books.
The turbines do bother some folks, including Glenn R. Schleede, a retired power company executive from Round Hill, Va., who said the wind power industry puts out “absolute baloney” to justify its existence. “I’m tired of subsidizing Warren Buffett companies,” Schleede said, referring to federal tax subsidies that go to MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., a division of Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. that is headed by Buffett. Those are MidAmerican’s turbines in the fields around Schaller. Schleede’s criticisms, mostly in academic-style papers he writes, concentrate on the economics of wind power and what he called “false claims about how this is good for an energy system.” “In fact, these things, because they’re intermittent and volatile and unpredictable, they don’t really add a lot of capacity to an electric grid,” he said. “When you see these things advertised, they talk about how many megawatts of capacity, the number of homes served and all that garbage. “I would maintain that they don’t serve any homes.”