State Government Moves To Renewables and Energy Efficiency

In January, Governor Nelson signed his first executive order of 1998, requiring state agencies to aggressively incorporate energy conservation and renewable energy into their future activities.

"I feel it is vitally important that Nebraska continues to rank among the nation's leaders in promoting energy conservation, and in the development and use of renewable fuels. And I believe agencies in state government can set an example for all Nebraskans to follow," Nelson said.

According to the Governor, the effort targets five areas:

"Increasing reliance on domestic renewable resources and reducing dependence on irreplaceable fossil fuels is vital for our national security. Development of renewable energy will create jobs, diversify the industrial base, create tremendous opportunities for rural development and enhance the stability of the state economy by producing a value-added product. The use of renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency will reduce our air and water pollution," Nelson said.

Building on the Past

The Department of Roads already has one solar powered rest area near Lincoln and may plan others as they are rebuilt. The agency has also begun using solar powered informational signs on the interstate.

Nearly one out of every five vehicles in the state's fleet uses 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline and more of these vehicles will be purchased. Currently, the Roads Department has about 100 vehicles using biodiesel, a 10 percent soy oil and 90 percent diesel blend. The agency has recently begun experimenting with an ethanol by-product instead of using salt on icy highways.

Several years ago, the state began incorporating energy efficient lighting systems in facilities across Nebraska. According to the Department of Administrative Services, savings from the lighting replacements save about $45,000 yearly.

The Sun Shinges Bright

The Governor said the executive order has spurred architects designing the Department of Corrections' new prison to incorporate energy conservation and solar energy wherever possible.

Nebraska's Energy Director, Bob Harris, said his agency took representatives from the state's Building Division, Game & Parks Commission, Roads Department, and Corrections to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado to acquaint the state's building professionals with the latest information for including solar technology in numerous applications. "The advances made in wind and solar technologies are remarkable," Harris said. "We are rapidly approaching the point where these technologies will be cost competitive with electricity produced from inexpensive fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas."