Preserving public power requires advocacy, education
October 29, 2017
Electricity is so ubiquitous in our lives, we rarely think about it. The same could be said regarding the public power business model used for generating and delivering that electricity to end-use customers.
Nebraska’s public power system has been around for a long time. And yet, like electricity itself, few give it much thought. Public power in Nebraska developed during the 1930-40s largely because it wasn’t profitable enough for large, investor-owned utilities to serve small, rural communities.
As a result, today Nebraska is the only state in the country served 100 percent by public electric utilities. Through the decades, the state’s public utilities have planned, invested and built the infrastructure and electric generation resources to adequately serve their respective customer-owners. It’s a system that has worked extremely well and continues to work well even as the industry has gone through significant changes over the past decade.
Bills introduced last year in the Nebraska Legislature took aim to erode the state’s public power system – one that has successfully delivered reliable and economical electricity to customers for decades. Although those bills were indefinitely postponed at the committee level, it is anticipated more bills could target Nebraska’s public power system in future legislative sessions.
Recently, I shared information with several Nebraska state senators about the state’s unique public power system and public power in general, including the importance of preserving that system for the benefit of customers. Here are a few facts regarding Nebraska’s public power system from the U.S. Energy Information Administration:
- Nebraska’s electric rates are extremely competitive regionally and nationally, ranking among the lowest rates by state in the nation.
- Compared to the 16 states that offer retail choice, Nebraska’s average retail price is lower than all of them and significantly lower in most cases.
- Nebraska ranks third nationally in reliability (average power outage in minutes).
- On average, the state’s electric homeowners spend just $3.53 per day for electricity.
It’s easy to take Nebraska’s unique public power system for granted as it has worked so well for so long. It continues to provide competitive rates, local control, transparency through public meetings, high reliability and customer responsiveness.
We must remain vigilant in protecting Nebraska’s public power system. This includes ongoing education to inform citizens of the benefits of public power. Those education efforts could include talking to local groups, businesses and your local state senator about the value of your local public utility. I am also available to come and share information to local groups regarding Nebraska’s public power system. The Nebraska Power Association (www.nepower.org) and the American Public Power Association (www.publicpower.org) has resources available for use as well.
The next time you flip on a light switch, turn on your television or coffee maker, take just a second to acknowledge the foresight of those earlier Nebraskans that supported a system that works for its customer owners. Then, turn your attention to the task of protecting it by staying vigilant against those who seek to undermine the state’s public power system and the benefits it provides.
(Bob Poehling serves as executive director of NMPP Energy)