Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Wind farm as storm approaches

“Nebraska has the fourth-highest wind energy potential among all U.S. states, and is served exclusively by publicly-owned utilities," says the author of a new report out Tuesday. "This makes the state uniquely positioned to transition to wind energy and other forms of renewable energy in a just and equitable manner." (Photo: BeyondImages/Getty Images)

Roadmap Details Just Transition Based on Sustainable Wind Energy for Nebraska

"Nebraska residents the ability to hold their utilities accountable to serving the public interest."

Andrea Germanos

The people of Nebraska "deserve a livable future with less water and air pollution, more sustainable jobs, and democratic control over their energy sources."

So declares a report released Tuesday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) that urges the landlocked U.S. state to take full advantage of its vast wind energy potential and ditch its climate-wrecking reliance on coal.

Entitled Rain and Sunshine and Wind How an Energy Transition Could Power Nebraska, the new publication details how the state is ripe for a just energy transition and offers a roadmap for how to get there.

“Nebraska has the fourth-highest wind energy potential among all U.S. states, and is served exclusively by publicly-owned utilities," said report co-author Basav Sen, climate policy director at IPS. "This makes the state uniquely positioned to transition to wind energy and other forms of renewable energy in a just and equitable manner."

The state's current energy system, according to the report, is simply unsustainable.

Data from 2020 shows that just over half of Nebraska's energy comes from coal, which "has and will continue to pose a real threat to communities." The report points to toxic air pollution from coal power plants, which are disproportionately located in communities of color.

There's also the broader climate impacts of continuing to rely on fossil fuels, as well as locally felt consequence including flooding, droughts, and adverse impacts on soil.

Transitioning to a wind-based energy system, however, would bring improvements that stretch beyond removing coal's pollution. In terms of jobs benefits, the report points to 2019, when the coal industry lost nearly 8,000 jobs compared to the nearly 11,000 jobs added in the renewables sector.

In addition, the report notes:

Renewable energy job wages are competitive with fossil fuel wages... The median hourly wage for wind turbine service technicians is $27.03, which is much higher than the median for all construction and extraction jobs, which is $23.37. It is also not much lower than the median for one of the coal industry's highest paying positions as a roof bolter in mining, which pays $29.42. Moreover, a significant benefit of the clean energy sector is the rapid growth it is experiencing. Wind turbine service technicians currently have the second highest ranked growth among all occupations defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with 68% increase in employment expected between 2020 and 2030.

Moreover, wind energy jobs have wages that are at least comparable with, and in fact at the higher end of, wages for fossil fuel jobs. Wind energy jobs have a median hourly wage that is about 34% higher than the median wage of all occupations. Additionally, these jobs are still accessible to individuals without higher education degrees as most clean energy positions only require a high school diploma at most. The rate of unionization for the clean energy sector in 2019 stood at 9%, which is higher than the national average of 6%. This is particularly important as unionization comes with a plethora of benefits. Union workers are paid at a rate that is 11.2% higher than non-union workers. Unionization also brings non-monetary advantages, such as better healthcare and more paid sick days.

To achieve the energy transition, the report outlines a number of steps, including for Nebraskans to enact net metering, a policy that would allow households that produce more electricity than they consume to sell the excess back to the utility for a credit.

According to the report, net metering bolsters energy democracy, incentivizes wind power, and includes other benefits such as "lower electric bills, reduced carbon footprint, reduced exposure to future electricity price increases, and possible increased property value."

An additional step detailed is for the state to make utilities purchase power from wind energy generation co-ops. And with turbines owned by communities, "profit will circulate locally to Nebraska communities, and households will have autonomy over their property and energy," the report states.

The authors of the analysis say it is time to "make Nebraska's public utilities work for the public," and because the state has 100% public utilities it argues that a system focused on sustainable wind energy would give residents the ability to hold those utilities "accountable to serving the public interest."

As such, the report says "public power districts can prioritize Nebraskans' needs over party politics and set 100% clean energy goals across the state while bypassing the state Legislature. Putting the community’s best interests first will enable Nebraskans to have a voice in choosing to transition to wind energy."

Report co-author Aila Ganić, also a Nebraska resident, said the state has a clear choice ahead of it.

"If Nebraska wants a livable future with clean air, clean water, and sustainable jobs for Nebraskans," she said, "it is critical that we harness the abundant wind energy the state possesses."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Abortion Rights Defenders Applaud Judge's Block on Utah 'Trigger Ban'

"Today is a win, but it is only the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long and difficult fight," said one pro-choice advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


Scores Feared Dead and Wounded as Russian Missiles Hit Ukraine Shopping Center

"People just burned alive," said Ukraine's interior minister, while the head of the Poltava region stated that "it is too early to talk about the final number of the killed."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biodiversity Risks Could Persist for Decades After Global Temperature Peak

One study co-author said the findings "should act as a wake-up call that delaying emissions cuts will mean a temperature overshoot that comes at an astronomical cost to nature and humans that unproven negative emission technologies cannot simply reverse."

Jessica Corbett ·


Amnesty Report Demands Biden Take Action to End Death Penalty

"The world is waiting for the USA to do what almost 100 countries have achieved during this past half-century—total abolition of the death penalty," said the group.

Julia Conley ·


Pointing to 'Recently Obtained Evidence,' Jan. 6 Panel Calls Surprise Tuesday Hearing

The announcement came less than a week after the House panel delayed new hearings until next month, citing a "deluge" of fresh evidence.

Common Dreams staff ·

Common Dreams Logo