Electric Utilities Vow to Fight Change

Public Power
In May, Governor Mike Johanns and representatives from the state's largest electric utilities announced a multi-media effort to stymie any effort to change publicly-owned electric systems in Nebraska.

"If any one of us were to suggest breaking up public power in this state, I think there would be a war," Johanns said. "Publicly-owned power systems continue to provide a great return on our investment with reliable service."

The Nebraska Power Association, a group of electric utilities, will conduct an educational effort to remind Nebraskans of the benefits of public power. The effort supports the findings of a three-year study of the state's electric system.

A Long, Long Time to Never

The study recommended Nebraska only adopt retail choice when specific market conditions exist that could benefit the state's consumers. In response, the 2000 Nebraska Legislature directed the Nebraska Power Review Board to monitor developments in the region's electric industry. The Board must also submit an annual report regarding the specific conditions that would warrant retail choice in the state. The Governor said "I can't imagine it in my lifetime," when asked if the state's electric industry will be privatized.

Nebraska is unique - it is the only state totally served by a consumer-owned public power system that delivers electricity as a nonprofit service. Publicly-owned power guarantees Nebraska residents enjoy local control with some of the lowest rates in the nation.

Nationally, significant change has come to America's electric industry as a result of the Federal Energy Policy Act, passed by Congress in 1992. The law established greater competition at the wholesale level, created open access to electric transmission lines and fostered retail competition, where customers can choose their power supplier. Retail choice options are available in about half of the nation.

However, recent surges in price and power shortages have lead policymakers in some states where retail choice was available to reconsider how the industry is structured.

Return to the Summer 2000 Newsletter