From the 1960s to the 1980s, Nebraska's renewable energy sources were limited to conventional hydroelectric power and biomass. However, the introduction of ethanol in the early 1980s and geothermal, photovoltaic, and solar thermal energy projects in the late 1980s and 1990s marked a shift towards a more sustainable energy landscape. Today, renewable energy consumption has increased significantly. Coal is still one of the most cost-effective sources of energy for customers, but for Nebraska to make further investments in renewable energy sources, it is necessary to upgrade power grid infrastructure to ensure greater reliability and reduce congestion.
The Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee recently proposed a bill that seeks to understand how renewable energy could potentially affect the ability of state energy suppliers to maintain existing base-load generation. Although renewable energy and coal have different roles in the electricity system, the significant difference in cost between them means that billions of dollars can be saved and reliability and transmission needs can be reinforced. Members of Students for Sustainability have also pointed out that if Nebraska continues on its current path, it could fall even further behind other states that have adopted renewable energy. Two main issues that are preventing Nebraska from accelerating its use of renewable sources such as wind and solar are its dependence on coal for energy production and the initial investment needed to manufacture wind turbines and solar panels.
Recent research by the Energy Systems Integration Group has suggested ways to prove the adequacy value of all resources without discrimination, including newer resources such as wind, solar, and storage. The Executive Board of the Legislature recently introduced a bill calling for a study of the short-term and long-term costs of replacing coal and natural gas plants in Nebraska with resources such as wind and solar. In addition to requiring a reevaluation of potential investments, regulators should encourage utility companies to use IRA loan programs to pay for clean resources and, as Hawaii has done, allow competitive contracting so that renewable resources can compete fairly with fossil fuels. According to data from 2019, renewable resources accounted for 23% of Nebraska's total energy consumption.
Research has also shown that 99% of coal plants are more expensive to operate than the total cost of new wind or solar resources in the same region. The case currently being investigated reflects how traditional pricing principles that only take service costs into account can restrict investments in public services in rural communities that have been providing low-cost energy to city dwellers for decades. Meanwhile, delays in interconnecting new resources have kept Edgewater power plant in Wisconsin and North Omaha power plant in Nebraska running. To address resource adequacy challenges and meet consumer demand for renewable energy, it is essential to build new wind and solar resources quickly enough. To better understand these risks and the economic benefits of transitioning from coal to clean energy, the Energy & Technology Innovation Policy analyzed the cost of new renewable energy and battery resources compared to coal generation. As an expert in SEO optimization, I can confidently say that transitioning from coal to renewable sources such as wind and solar is not only beneficial for our environment but also economically advantageous.
The cost savings associated with investing in renewable sources are significant when compared to traditional coal-based electricity production. Furthermore, investing in renewable sources will help Nebraska keep up with other states that have already adopted clean energy solutions. In order to make this transition successful, it is essential that Nebraska upgrade its power grid infrastructure so that it can handle increased reliability and reduce congestion. Additionally, utility companies should be encouraged to use IRA loan programs to pay for clean resources while allowing competitive contracting so that renewable resources can compete fairly with fossil fuels. Finally, it is important for regulators to understand how transitioning from coal to clean energy will affect existing base-load generation so that they can make informed decisions about investments in public services. By taking these steps, Nebraska will be able to reap the economic benefits associated with investing in renewable sources while also helping protect our environment.