Electricity is essential for our communities, businesses and households. Nebraska is the only public power state, giving Nebraskans the ability to elect board members that represent our interests and needs, and be leaders for Nebraska’s energy future. Ratepayers-owners have a responsibility to be engaged, and they deserve to have their voices heard by public power and state agencies that make decisions with long-term impacts.
On July 21, the Center for Rural Affairs, along with several partners, held a community energy conversation in Norfolk. This conversation served as an opportunity for everyday Nebraskans to learn more about the state of energy in and around their community, and discuss issues that were important to them.
One of the main topics of conversation at the meeting was the impact of wind and electric transmission infrastructure, especially in the Sandhills. From the effect that such development would have on the unique landscape and wildlife, to the desire for Nebraska Public Power District to work more with local landowners in the planning and construction of transmission lines, the meeting had a clear conclusion -- there needs to be more discussion with local landowners and communities, and a willingness for both sides to meet together to determine the best way to develop new energy and infrastructure projects.
There were other topics, though, and ones that should be of particular interest to Nebraskans in rural communities. We’ve written before about the benefits that energy efficiency can provide to rural homeowners and businesses, especially businesses that require a lot of power to operate. One common example is a grocery store, a business that requires quite of a bit of energy to keep the temperature at just the right spot, and keep the lights on for local customers.
When a grocery store has to pay a high price for energy, those costs get passed down to customers. But, if a store is able to implement energy efficiency measures and ultimately lower electric bills, savings are passed down to customers and stores are able to worry less about keeping their doors open each month.
We also talked about how solar energy continues to become cheaper and more efficient, with more and more rural folks able to install their own solar systems and generate power right at their home. And while not everyone can afford a system or have the ability to install solar panels, more Nebraska communities are exploring local solar gardens or community projects to allow citizens to invest in a clean and renewable future for themselves and their communities.
Rural Nebraskans can help make decisions
A key takeaway from the meeting was that rural Nebraskans shouldn’t allow themselves to be passed off as “outstate Nebraska” when it comes to making decisions regarding their energy futures.
Everyone came to the event with an interest in energy and what it means to their community. One privilege of living in a state where power utilities are publicly owned is that we shouldn’t have to save these interests or conversations for events like this one. We have the ability and the responsibility to discuss these issues and opportunities with our elected public power board members, and tell them what rural Nebraska wants in its energy future.
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