Energy Office Picked to Run Biomass Energy Region

In September, the U.S. Department of Energy selected the Nebraska Energy Office as administrator of the 13-state Western Regional Biomass Energy Program, replacing the Western Area Power Administration. Western is one of five regional biomass programs.

Biomass consists of renewable energy resources such as forest residue, wood and wood waste, food waste, agricultural crops and waste, animal waste, livestock operations residue, aquatic plants and municipal waste.

Electronic Access

"Western has always maintained a level of excellence and we hope to build on that foundation," Bob Harris, Director of the Nebraska Energy Office said. "Over the years, the Energy Office has maintained an excellent corps of professionals who will provide valuable assistance in making Western's successes more widely known."

The state agency plans on aggressively moving Western's resources into the rapidly expanding electronic information arena. "I would envision that within months and possibly even sooner individuals interested in Western's activities will be able to meet their informational needs on Western's web site," Harris said. "We also have plans to increase the general public's knowledge of biomass activities by using electronic publishing and mailing as well as making local, state and national media resources aware of Western's activities and projects."

Vital Partner

The federally-funded regional biomass programs began in 1983 when members of Congress created the state-based effort to expand biomass-to-energy activities and research. "Western has played a critical role in advancing many projects of significance in Nebraska," Harris said. "Since at least 1992, Nebraska has been able to count on Western's support for projects that expand the use of biomass resources in the state."

According to the Energy Office, Western has provided considerable financial support to local and state projects such as Lincoln's four E95 buses, the Department of Roads' two E95 heavy duty trucks and the establishment of a public E85 filling station system across the state. A recent biomass-to-ethanol-to-electricity fuel cell conference held in Nebraska City was financed, in part, by Western.

Congress authorized up to $2 million for biomass energy projects nationwide in 1998.

Others Housed There, Too

The Energy Office also serves as the administrative headquarters of the 21-member Governors' Ethanol Coalition as well as operating state and federal energy efficiency programs.

"In working with other energy-based organizations, we in the Energy Office have found creating partnerships that involve people at the top as well as across the organizational spectrum is one of the best ways to achieve progress on many projects," Harris said. "It is our hope the same will happen with people in the 13-state Western region."

The five-year operating contract with the Energy Office is conditioned on Congressional support of the biomass program.

For more information about Western, contact Jeff Graef, the lead staff person and primary biomass contact in the Energy Office.

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