Clean Power Plan Brings Opportunities to Rural Nebraska

On August 3, 2015, President Barack Obama and Environmental Protection Agency Director Gina McCarthy announced EPA’s  release of the final version of the Clean Power Plan. It establishes the first limits on carbon pollution in the country.

The Clean Power Plan provides states with a significant opportunity to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and protect our communities by stepping up our commitment to renewable energy and greater energy efficiency. Here in Nebraska, renewable energy industries have room for significant growth, a win for Nebraska’s rural communities and low-income households.

The Clean Power Plan requires the nation’s existing power plants to reduce carbon pollution by an average of 32% by 2030, an increase from the target of 30% proposed in the draft rule. States must submit implementation plan drafts by 2016. Final versions come due in 2018. The Clean Power Plan also includes incentives for states that invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency prior to 2022.

Consider that Nebraska ranks 7th highest among states for per capita energy consumption. Yet we consistently rank in the bottom third in efforts to use energy more efficiently, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

Investments in energy efficiency can provide significant benefits to ratepayers, especially in low-income households and rural communities. And renewable energy keeps hard earned dollars closer to home too.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory forecasted that an 80 megawatt wind farm, the size of just one farm in Broken Bow, Nebraska, can generate nearly 400 jobs, $4.8 million in land lease payments, and $6.3 million in new tax revenues for schools and services like local fire and police forces. That spending translates into $50.14 million in local economic benefits.

Nebraska’s wind resources have the potential to meet more than 118 times the state’s current energy needs. Large-scale solar energy could provide over 300 times our needs. With new incentives under the Clean Power Plan, pairing our incredible renewable resources with energy efficiency measures is an opportunity Nebraska can’t ignore.

We need to take steps to limit carbon that pollutes our air and drives climate change. As we review the Clean Power Plan in the coming months, we should emphasize energy options that help dramatically reduce emissions and protect our health, while benefiting rural communities and keeping our hard-earned dollars closer to home. We should champion an implementation plan that is more than just a temporary fix, but favors solutions that are widely beneficial in the long term.