Affordability plays a key role in NREA’s “Working for Nebraska” education awareness campaign. The effort focuses on educating Nebraska’s electric consumers about the need to craft energy and climate change policies that will support a diverse mix of power generation while keeping electricity reasonably priced.
We’ve always counted on our consumers being part of the solution. It’s not a case where you can sit back and expect somebody to take care of you. It’s a case in which we’ve all got to work together. Rural electric consumers provide a tremendous amount of political strength that helps us take a lot of rough edges off of legislation. There may be regulations we have to encourage our friends in the Legislature to change, and that will require a great deal of political strength.
The communications strategy campaign also looks for rural electric consumers to ask their U.S. representative and senators if Congress will work with public power district and electric cooperatives to make sure reliable power is available at a price consumers can afford.
If consumers don’t get engaged, then obviously electric bills are going to be far higher that they should be and people will suffer. Without our consumers’ help, local electric utilities will not be able to stop it. Consumers could even find themselves in a situation where reliable electric power may not be so reliable. The stakes are enormous, both from a standpoint of affordability and from a standpoint of availability.
Affordable electricity benefits all Nebraskans. In our state a homeowner can meet all of their electrical needs for about $3.60 per day. This is less than the cost of a drive-thru meal to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, your lights on, and your appliances running. Nation-wide, Nebraska’s electric rates are 15 percent below the national average and we rank in the top 15 among all states for the lowest electric rates.
Keeping rates affordable
At a time when prices on everything seem to be climbing, public power remains a great value. In fact, since 1936 electric rates in Nebraska have only gone up .05 cents per kilowatt hour. Just one nickel’s change since the Great Depression and the beginning of the Rural Electrification Program which brought electricity to some of Nebraska’s most rural farms.
Infrastructure upgrades, increased fuel prices, and federal regulation are all driving forces in increasing electric rates. To keep rates as low as possible, rural public power providers have had to work diligently to keep overhead costs at a minimum. In fact, Nebraska’s rural electric systems only employ one individual for every 239 customers, and nearly 70 percent of your electric bill is the cost of wholesale power to rural power districts. This means the delivery of electricity and all of the work necessary to keep your lights on only makes up about 30 percent of your monthly charges.
Nebraska’s public power model has served us well, and the value of public power is apparent in every small town across the state. Your public power district’s or electric cooperative not focused on turning a profit. Instead, they’re helping to make power affordable for you and your neighbor.
On a national average, public power rates are lower than those of other investor-owned utility companies. That’s because local, not-for-profit utilities have the power to put their neighbors first. Keeping energy costs affordable serves every community’s long-term needs, and that’s what public power is all about. Locally owned utilities achieve affordability by setting their rates using citizen-controlled boards that hold public meetings.
Stepping up to the challenge
Across the country, public power districts and electric co-ops are stepping up to the challenge to keep electricity affordable in the face of what has become an attack on carbon emissions. In looking out for their members, public power districts and electric co-ops lead the utility industry in implementing energy efficiency programs and supplying power from renewable energy and other technologies still in development.
Rural utilities are on the cutting edge when it comes to testing and deploying new technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and advanced meter reading devices. They are also recognized industry leaders in promoting energy efficiency to help consumers reduce electricity consumption and save money.
There is no simple, single solution to tackling our nation’s energy challenge, and even exciting new technologies like renewable energy resources aren’t a silver bullet. For example, to fully utilize the potential of renewable energy, at least 30,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines (230 kV and greater) will need to be constructed to move energy generated at remote wind farms and other facilities to urban load centers. This will cost billions alone.
Siting and erecting transmission towers has long been a struggle. Planning and permitting approvals take many years and run a gauntlet of not only federal, state, and local governments but also citizen and environmental activists.