As part of Bold’s focus on new energy as well as building our own energy and putting the public back in public power, I recently made a trip to the NPPD board of directors meeting, which was held at Gerald Gentleman Station, a coal plant in western Nebraska. The board was courteous and seemed receptive to my comments (see below), although no follow up has been done on their part.
I encourage citizens to reach out to your local power boards, to NPPD and to OPPD. Attend a board meeting to see how they operate. Write them a letter. Educate yourself about the challenges our public power system faces, and find out what you can do to help. Feel free to present your own comments to these boards, and don’t be shy to ask for information. Nebraska’s power system belongs to the public. We have a right to participate, we have a right to access information, and we have a right to hold our elected officials accountable.
I believe that if Nebraskans truly begin to engage in our public power system by adding our own skills, resources and ideas, we can move Nebraska forward and transform Nebraska to an energy-independent state.
Statement prepared for the Board of Directors of the Nebraska Public Power District
July 11, 2013
Good afternoon, and thank you for allowing me time to speak. My name is Ben Gotschall and I am the Energy Director for Bold Nebraska. I recently wrote a blog post on my group’s website which I have provided today for those who might not have seen it. Since then, I have received some questions from NPPD staff about the post, about my purpose for requesting information from NPPD, and about Bold’s intentions regarding NPPD and the public power system in Nebraska.
For the past three years, Bold Nebraska has been actively engaged with the Keystone pipeline issue. We have held numerous meetings and events throughout our state, and we have heard very strong, very consistent messages from citizens everywhere we go. Aside from wanting to protect our land and water resources from risks associated with pipelines, Nebraskans want clean, renewable energy. We want it now, and we don’t expect someone else to do it for us. We want to be involved in building our own energy future, because we believe that citizen- and community-owned energy projects are part of that future. Across the country there are many examples of community-owned energy projects, including CLEAN projects, and many of those projects have been implemented by public utilities.
We are aware of the obstacles to renewable energy in our state. We realize the challenges NPPD faces in balancing demand and potential for renewables with obligations and limitations to existing infrastructure. We understand that public power entities are placed in unique predicaments that other providers don’t have to navigate, and we want to help. We are just one of many organizations including the Nebraska Farmers Union, of which I am a district and county officer, that are working to develop community-owned renewable energy projects. We want to work with NPPD, as partners in the public power system, to enable conscientious citizens and capable communities to create sustainable renewable energy projects. We want citizen-owners to regard themselves as more than merely ratepayers. We want to have actively engaged individuals and vibrant community contribution that will broaden and diversify Nebraska’s renewable energy landscape.
As the Energy Director for Bold Nebraska, I do not consider myself to be an energy expert. True to my title, I merely want to direct the energy of the people in the direction where it will do the most good, which I believe is toward helping each other build strong rural communities, small towns, and local economies through new energy projects.
My reasons for requesting information are for the education of myself and others. Many Nebraskans, myself included, who are interested in public power, who value their roles within it, and who want to participate still don’t understand the system. Whether through erecting a residential windmill on an acreage, installing rooftop solar panels on a small-town retail store, or running for a rural electric board, Nebraskans want to get involved, but they don’t always know how. Like Nebraska’s abundant wind and solar resources, there is untapped energy in the form of enthusiastic citizens who care about the future of our state’s power system and what that system will mean for our environment and for our economy.
At this time I would like to announce that we now have funding to use to send ten Nebraskans to Germany to learn from that country’s successes and mistakes in implementing community-owned energy. I extend an invitation to NPPD to send a representative to join our group on that trip.
Again, thank you for allowing me to speak today. I look forward to working with you, and I welcome your comments, questions, and future correspondence.
Ben Gotschall, Energy Director