Public power affords ratepayer-owners a say in our energy future


By Lauren Kolojejchick-Kotch, former staff member

When it comes to power, Nebraska is unique from every other state. That’s because our state is the only one in the nation with public power, giving Nebraskans the ability to elect board members that will represent our interests when it comes to powering our homes and businesses. To insure that we are being properly represented, Nebraskans must be active in learning about energy in the state and what public power districts are planning for the future.

Nebraskans should be asking questions, and making their voices heard. Public Power affords all ratepayer-owners a say in our energy future.

This month, the Center for Rural Affairs organized a community conversation in Norfolk with Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) Director Virgil Froehlich, and several staff members from NPPD. The meeting provided residents with the chance to share their thoughts on energy in Nebraska, as well as learn more about NPPD and energy issues brought up by other participants.

The event was attended by educators, business leaders, farmers, advocates, elected representatives, and engaged citizens of all ages. Some questions asked during the meeting included:  

  • How will power generators like NPPD plan to comply with the Clean Power Plan, the environmental regulation that will reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants?  
  • What type of energy efficiency programs does NPPD offer to help residential, commercial and industrial ratepayer-owners save money on their heating and cooling? Will NPPD also help ratepayer-owners apply for grants and loans for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy installations?  
  • How does NPPD plan to continue investing in large scale, and distributed generation renewable energy, including wind and solar? What is NPPD’s goal, and what will they do once they’ve met it? NPPD shared information about its new 10 megawatt community solar garden initiative, that even renters, who do not own their rooftops, can access.
  • Participants asked for more information about the announced partnership with Monolith Materials that will help convert half of Sheldon Station Power Plant in Hallam, NE, to run on hydrogen rather than coal.
  • Why is Iowa so far ahead of Nebraska in terms of renewable energy installation? What is Iowa doing that we are not?
  • How are landowners compensated for the siting of wind turbines on their land? Are there taxes collected? Where does that money go?

The community conversation was informative, and allowed local residents to get to know their board member better. Everyone came to the event with an interest in energy and what it means to their community, and had good questions for NPPD staff. One privilege of living in a state where power utilities are publicly owned, is having the ability to speak directly to your elected board representatives. We all have a responsibility to engage in discussions like these.