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Grand Island looks to sell surplus credits from green energy

Grand Island looks to sell surplus credits from green energy

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Tim Luchsinger, Grand Island Utilities Director, stands at the city's solar array pilot project off Museum Drive, built in 2018, which provides a renewable source of energy for the city. The city is pursuing marketing services to sell its surplus of renewable energy credits from its solar and wind power generation. (Independent/Brandon Summers)

The city of Grand Island has a surplus of renewable energy credits from its wind and solar electric power generation.

Because such credits have no monetary value in Nebraska, the city is pursuing marketing services to sell them to other utilities or businesses.

“We’ve been approached by some companies that are interested in marketing these renewable energy credits to either utilities that are in states that have these mandates for renewable energy credits, or companies out there that are interested in reducing their carbon footprint,” Utilities Director Tim Luchsinger said.

The city has about 530,000 renewable energy credits, a good amount for a city utility that gets only 15% of its energy from renewable sources, Luchsinger said.

The market price of the credits is not known.

“We’re looking for proposals to help us determine how to get the best price for the city at the lowest risk,” he said. “We’re just exploring that right now.”

Most utilities companies that would need such credits are in the eastern U.S.

Businesses such as Walmart, Facebook or Case New Holland also use them.

“Global companies like that are a little more active in trying to reduce carbon footprints and may be interested in some of those credits,” Luchsinger said.

For the city, the revenue would be used to fund new Utilities Department projects or reduce rates.

“It helps the ratepayer, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Luchsinger said.

Grand Island’s clean energy program began in the mid-2010s under President Barack Obama’s administration and its efforts to address climate change.

“They were looking at reducing emissions off fossil fuel plants and increasing renewables,” Luchsinger said.

The federal government would allow a utility to use renewable energy credits to offset fossil fuel emissions.

In 2015, the city launched its first wind project, and a solar array pilot project in 2018.

A 50-megawatt wind project in Custer County will go online in two to three years.

“That will increase our renewable energy to about 45% to 50% of our total energy used,” Luchsinger said.

The federal plans were canceled, though.

The city since has been collecting renewable energy credits.

“It’s an asset we have that we had one plan for and that plan has gone away. We’re sitting here in limbo, not really knowing what to do with it,” Luchsinger said. “We can’t necessarily use them because Nebraska does not have a renewable energy standard. so we’ve just been banking them.”

The city eventually might have use for such credits, he said.

“It may come to the time, with the new (presidential) administration, where we’ll have to use those credits ourselves, but, until that time comes, we’ll see what we can do on the market,” Luchsinger said. “Right now, it’s an asset we’re not using. We need to explore methods to get compensation for it.”

He added, “It can be a benefit for the department as a revenue source.”

Requests for proposals for marketing services are due May 18 at the city clerk’s office.

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