The Nebraska Energy Office was created in 1977 to promote the efficient, economic and environmentally responsible use of energy. In that role the Energy Office makes considerable investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs to ensure affordable and reliable energy for Nebraskans. The U.S. Department of Energy’s State Energy Program (SEP) is a vital part of the Energy Office's ability to achieve these objectives. With SEP funding, the Energy Office has developed and implemented a number of innovative energy programs that are playing an important role in Nebraska's responsible use of energy and helping to grow the state's clean energy economy.
SEP funds provide program support for a wide array of activities that include the Dollar and Energy Saving Loan Program, Advanced Renewable Energy Projects, State Building Energy Efficiency, and several education programs. Many of these programs leverage SEP funds with considerable non-federal dollar investments in energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy projects in all sectors.
The Energy Office has operated the Dollar and Energy Saving Loan Program for more than 21 years. The revolving loan program finances energy efficient improvements in homes, farms, ranches, business, industrial, schools and others. Capitalized with $25 million in oil overcharge funds, the program has been re-charged through the years with loan repayments as well as SEP and utility funding for a total loan pool of $36 million. From 1990 to December 31, 2011, 27,339 projects totaling more than $258.7 million have been financed with low-interest loans from the Energy Office and the state’s participating lenders at 894 locations across the state. Although the overwhelming majority of loans are for residential projects, in the summer of 2011 the first two public compressed natural gas stations in Omaha were financed with low-interest loans. The stations are part of a shared project by Metropolitan Utilities District and Happy Cab Co. The cab company has a fleet of CNG vehicles and the District plans to purchase more than 80 new compressed natural gas vehicles over the next year.
The Advanced Renewable Energy Projects grant program also leverages SEP funds with private investment funds. Eight projects have been funded under the program during the past two years, resulting in renewable energy generation capacity exceeding 120 kilowatt (kW). The eight projects leveraged more than $4.3 million from private sources. One project resulted in a state-of-the-art photovoltaic tracking system at Nebraska Public Power District's Norfolk Operations Center. The tracking system was, in part, manufactured by Behlen Manufacturing in Columbus, Nebraska. The 44.1 kW system became operational in 2010, and over the course of its first year of operation (December 2010 until December 2011), the system produced more than 77,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) and offset nearly 50 metric tons of carbon emissions based upon NPPD system average fossil generating emissions.
The Energy Office is using SEP funding to upgrade the energy efficiency of state government buildings, and educational facilities at the University of Nebraska’s four campuses, three state colleges and six community colleges. Thirty-seven building energy retrofit projects have been identified and are in various stages of completion.
SEP has also played a major role in educating the state's public officials, tradesmen and women, professional engineers, designers, equipment and material suppliers, as well as the citizenry on the latest energy technologies available in the marketplace. SEP funding has helped pay for seven 2.5 kW wind turbines as part of the state's Wind for Schools program. In addition, an Energy Detective kit was distributed to nearly 20,000 fifth grade students at schools throughout the state in 2010. The kit encourages students to work with their families on home retrofit and auditing projects, and save an estimated 5.5 million kilowatt hours over ten years.