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Energy Plan Touts Renewable Sources

The Nebraska Energy Office is proposing that the Legislature do something it has yet to do: Require the state's utilities to generate a minimum amount of electricity from renewable sources.

The proposal is among a number of ideas contained in the first update in more than 15 years of the state's long-term energy plan. The proposed plan, which provides a vision but is nonbinding, continues Nebraska's heavy emphasis on ethanol as a transportation fuel and calls for more aggressive efforts to construct energy-efficient buildings.

Hundreds of Nebraskans contributed suggestions that were incorporated into the draft plan, said Jerry Loos, spokesman for the Nebraska Energy Office. The 22-page plan is available for public review, and final suggestions are due by Jan. 23.

A so-called renewable portfolio standard - or minimum requirement for electricity to be generated from renewable energy sources - has never made it out of the Legislature. But more than half the states in the nation have such minimum standards, and a national minimum is gaining traction in Washington, D.C.

"The momentum is there," Loos said. "How you define the RPS is the key."

Renewable sources can include solar, wind, methane gas and hydropower dams.

Don Preister, a former state senator who championed a minimum standard and made several attempts to get one passed, said he's glad to see the idea in the plan. The state's utilities have been the chief obstacle, he said.
"It is important that we have something," he said. "It's what that something is and how it's implemented that will make a difference."

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