Lawmakers pass process for private renewable energy development

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The Nebraska Power Review Board has a new process for approving private renewable energy projects under a bill passed April 9.

LB1048, introduced by the Natural Resources Committee, provides an approval process for certified renewable export facilities, which the bill defines as facilities that:

  • use solar, wind, biomass or landfill gas to generate electricity;
  • are constructed and owned by a private entity; and
  • have 10-year power purchase agreements that direct 90 percent of electric output to out-of-state customers.

The bill establishes a two-step process for approving eligible facilities. The board first may grant conditional approval if a facility meets the requirements of a certified renewable export facility, provides public benefits including economic development, has a memorandum of understanding to export at least 90 percent of its output and offers public utilities serving loads greater than 50 megawatts the option to purchase up to 10 percent of the facility’s output at a negotiated rate. Energy provided to public utilities would not be calculated when determining whether a facility exports 90 percent of its electric output.

The board then may grant final approval if a facility has no materially detrimental effect on retail electric rates, agrees to reimburse public utilities for costs incurred to connect the facility to energy infrastructure and complies with additional requirements. The facility also must show that it does not pose a substantial risk of causing regulatory, legislative or market changes that would prevent any existing generation or transmission facility owned by a public electric utility from earning a favorable economic return.

An applicant approved by the board cannot be subjected to eminent domain by public electric utilities or any other entity if the facility is intended for electric generation or transmission. The bill provides eminent domain powers to public electric utilities for transmission infrastructure serving certified renewable export facilities.

Public electric utilities and governmental entities with regulatory jurisdiction over a facility may apply to the board, or the board may file its own motion, to decertify a facility if it fails to meet required standards. If, after a hearing, a facility is found incompliant, the facility has one year to reclaim certification before its protection from eminent domain is revoked.

The bill exempts wind turbines from personal property tax and institutes a nameplate capacity tax of $3,518 per megawatt of energy produced. Turbines owned by governmental entities, cooperatives and net-metering customers are exempt from the nameplate capacity tax, the revenues from which will be directed to local taxing entities that previously levied personal property taxes on the turbines.

Source: Nabraska Legislature

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