State senators announced Friday that they will introduce five bills intended to advance Nebraska’s renewable energy industry, increase economic development and provide property tax benefits.
“These bills will help to incentivize growth and investment in Nebraska over surrounding states and also remove barriers to renewable energy development in our state,” said Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, who is sponsoring one of the bills.
Nordquist’s bill would create a Nebraska production tax credit for renewable electric generation facilities and would allow the credit to be transferable. Surrounding states, including Iowa and Oklahoma, already offer a credit against state income tax for each kilowatt hour of electricity that a renewable energy generation facility produces.
“Without a state production tax credit in place, surrounding states have a competitive advantage over Nebraska,” Nordquist said. “This would put Nebraska on a level playing field by helping our state compete for projects designed to export electricity out of the state as well as benefiting Nebraska ratepayers by providing cheaper available electricity for in-state utilities.”
“A state production tax credit is essential to leveling the playing field and enabling our state to become a net exporter of energy instead of importer,” said Jon Crane, President of Bluestem Energy.
Sen. Al Davis will introduce a bill to broaden the existing Nameplate Capacity Tax to include projects using solar, biomass or landfill gas as the fuel source. In 2010, the Legislature created the Nameplate Capacity Tax, which is a flat excise tax that replaces the heavily front-loaded personal property tax that early wind energy projects paid.
“Years ago the Legislature introduced a bill to smooth the property tax impact of a major wind development project on the taxing districts in which the project took place. This was the Nameplate Capacity Tax and the bill provided a longer term and more stable taxing structure for wind projects,” Davis said. “My bill would extend this same tax status to solar and other renewable energy projects, benefiting the provider and the taxing district significantly since both will have a constant figure of taxes owed and due on which they can build budgets.”
Sen. Ken Haar will introduce a bill to simplify the existing process for the Nebraska Power Review Board to consider a renewable energy export facility. Currently, state law requires a developer to have a power purchase agreement with an out-of-state offtaker. While such an agreement exists with most projects, many developers have reported that the requirement to have the agreement before obtaining the approval created a perception that Nebraska was not fully open for the business of renewable energy development.
“Nebraska has world class wind resources to provide clean energy to the national market and in turn we will see rural economic development here in Nebraska,” Haar said.
The bill also proposes to remove barriers to privately-funded transmission development, which Haar said will be necessary to facilitate renewable energy development while minimizing impacts on in-state ratepayers.
Sen. Heath Mello will introduce a bill to simplify the Community-Based Energy Development, (CBED) process. C-BED projects must obtain input from Nebraska companies, suppliers or pay revenues to Nebraska residents that equal at least 25 percent of the project’s revenues for the first 20 years.
“Simplifying the C-BED process further removes barriers to renewable energy development in Nebraska,” Mello said.
Sen. Ken Schilz will introduce a bill that would require the Nebraska Energy Office to prepare a comprehensive, forward-looking energy plan for Nebraska by the end of 2015 that would be
updated every two years.
“The state needs to be in a position to take advantage of the economic development opportunities associated with energy market changes and advances in technology,” Schilz said.
“My bill to require the State Energy Office to develop an energy plan will help put Nebraska in that position.”