Monthly Archives: January 2020

Nebraska Cover Crop and Soil Health Conference set for Feb. 13

Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources News, UNL

There are many benefits to utilizing cover crops, such as improved soil health and reduced erosion. It’s the details of how and what to do that can present challenges. The Nebraska Cover Crop and Soil Health Conference will provide information to growers who are just getting started with cover crops and to those who are already making cover crops part of their operation.

The conference will take place on Thursday, Feb. 13 at the University of Nebraska Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center near Mead, Nebraska from 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m. Read the entire announcement here.

Learn more about the speakers and their experience with cover crops on the Cover Crops Conference website. There is no fee to attend, but preregistration is required by February 7,  4:30 pm.

Previously Posted 

Nebraska Resources

Nebraska Legislation
LB 243 to create a Healthy Soils Task Force, was passed by the Nebraska Legislature on April 11, 2019 by a vote of 43 to 0 and signed by Governor Ricketts on April 18th.

ADDITIONAL UPCOMING EVENT

Green Bellevue’s February Program: Regenerative Agriculture With Graham Christensen From GC Resolve, February 9, 2020 from 1:30 to 3 pm, Bellevue University’s Hitchcock Humanities Center, Room 202, 1040 Bruin Boulevard

Recommended Viewing: Graham and other Nebraskans were interviewed for this CBS News Documentary: A Climate Reckoning in the Heartland

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

Startups aim to pay farmers to bury carbon pollution in soil, Yale Climate Connections
Roughly 20% of annual emissions could be captured by agricultural lands, according to one expert.

More than a dozen states strive for 100 percent renewable energy

Environment America News Release

In 2019, Environment America and its state affiliates played a key role in convincing New MexicoMaine and Washington to make commitments to 100 percent clean or renewable energy. On the heels of those landmark victories, the national nonprofit organization announced today it is calling on fifteen additional states in 2020 to enact similar renewable energy goals.

“Burning fossil fuels damages human health and destabilizes the climate. We’ve been stuck on that path for a long time, but now there’s a better one: renewable energy from the sun and wind,” said Susan Rakov, chair of Environment America’s Clean Energy program. “One state at a time, we’re laying out a vision of a better, cleaner future. And across the nation, we’re seeing Americans and leadership respond by setting goals to reach that future. Last year’s successes are just the beginning.”  Read more here.

Environment America’s 100% Campaigns

MEAN Board Approves Resolution On Vision For Carbon Neutrality By 2050

The Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) Board of Directors at its board meeting on Jan. 23 in Kearney, Neb., approved a resolution laying out a vision to a carbon neutral power resource portfolio by 2050. The resolution authorizes MEAN’s staff to collaboratively work with the MEAN Power Supply Committee to construct policies around resource planning, portfolio optimization and emissions reduction to support future actions to achieve the 2050 carbon neutral goal. Read more here.

Resolution: MEAN 2050 Vision of Carbon Neutrality

About MEAN
The Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) is the not-for-profit wholesale electricity supply organization of NMPP Energy. Created in 1981, MEAN provides cost-based power supply, transmission and related services to 69 participating communities in four states: Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming.

MEAN Members/Participants

About NMPP Energy
NMPP Energy is a member-driven coalition of four organizations based in Lincoln, Neb., serving nearly 200 member communities in six Midwest and Rocky Mountain states. NMPP Energy’s organizations fulfill separate needs to their respective member communities. Collectively, they subscribe to the core philosophies of local control and working together to provide reliable, cost-based energy and energy-related services.

NMPP Energy Members 

Energy efficiency can ease the low-income burden

American Public Power Association

The average US household pays $1,411.80 for electricity each year.

That is:

  • 2.2% of the median household income in the US.
  • 5.5% of the income of a family of four who live at the poverty level
  • 11.7% of the income an individual over 65 who lives at the poverty level

This is also known as a household’s energy burden. The average energy burden for low-income households is 8.2%.

Read more here.

County board discusses North Bend project, solar farm

By Collin Spilinek, Fremont Tribune

[The Dodge County Board of Supervisors] unanimously approved a conditional use permit for Western Integrated Seed to establish a seven-acre solar farm on their property near Hooper. The farm came from a collaboration between Bluestem Energy Solutions and the Burt County Public Power District to provide energy to the county.

Bluestem is a renewable energy developer based out of Omaha that works with public power districts and municipal utilities across the state to provide them with options for local renewable generation. Matt Robinette, vice president of development, said the farm will provide energy to around 150 homes in Burt County. Read more here.

Additional Recommended Reading

Scottsbluff II Solar shares selling fast, NPPD News Release
Shares for the 4.375-megawatt solar farm opened for registration on Jan. 2, 2020. In just under a month, over 90 percent of the Scottsbluff II shares have already been purchased. 

Photo Credit: American Public Power Association

Opinion: Investment in Missouri lowers electricity bills and creates jobs for residents

Contributed by Lee Barker, The Missouri Times

Missourians do not like living paycheck to paycheck paying high utility bills and soon many won’t have to. The Grain Belt Express Transmission Line will lower the cost of utility bills to dozens of communities throughout the state. When built, the Grain Belt Express will deliver low-cost wind and solar power from Kansas to Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. In Missouri, the line will span eight counties delivering at least 500 megawatts of low-cost energy (and probably much more). Read more here.

Lee Barker is the former city administrator for Higginsville, Missouri.

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

In an American Wind Energy Association session moderated by Dave Price, political director of WHO-TV and carried live by Politico, the panelists said they hope to see Iowa’s already strong wind industry — one of the largest in the nation — double or triple its size in the next couple of decades.

SOLAR WITH JUSTICE REPORT

The sun shines for all: Community solar for low-income populations, by Meena Dayak, American Public Power Association. The Solar with Justice report from the Clean Energy States Alliance notes that participation in the solar economy can help ease the disproportionate social and economic burdens that low- to moderate-income households bear by helping to reduce electricity bills, provide jobs, and build sustainable communities. “Solar can also make decision-making more democratic by giving residents of under-resourced communities more control over their energy choices,” the report states.

ENERGY STORAGE

LOCAL CLIMATE SOLUTIONS

Look Locally For Solutions to Climate Crisis, Guest Column, Hibbing Daily Tribune
Recently we had the chance to visit a factory producing solar panels, and to hear about grassroots clean energy projects popping up all over northeastern Minnesota. The “we” was a group of about two dozen people from Duluth and the Iron Range. We were participating in an event on January 7 called Let There Be Light: Solar Initiatives Close to Home. 

WISCONSIN’S SOLAR SCHOOLS PROGRAM

Wisconsin Schools Asked To Plan For Solar Projects, Wisconsin Public Radio
The Solar on Schools program is asking K-12 schools in Wisconsin to consider installing solar panels as part of their energy mix. The program wants to attract 100 schools in the next four years to install the renewable energy source. The program is a joint venture between the Coulliard Solar Foundation in Deerfield and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association based in Custer. 

CARBON-NEUTRAL CAMPUS CELEBRATES ACHIEVEMENT

Colorado College achieves decade-long goal of carbon neutrality, The Gazette
In 2007, Colorado College sophomore David Amster-Olszewski circulated a petition that 70% of the school’s 2,000 students signed in 10 days, calling for the campus to commit to reaching carbon neutrality. Two years later, the campus set 2020 as the date to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from certain campus operations and use renewable energy sources. On Jan. 24, the college celebrated the realization of that goal.

SAVING ENERGY & MONEY

Alliant Energy study uses artificial intelligence to hunt down phantom power, target waste, Wisconsin State Journal. A 2015 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimated nearly a quarter of all household electricity use in the United States is consumed by appliances and other equipment in standby mode. Over the course of a year, that can add up to more than $300 worth of electricity for the average Wisconsin household and the equivalent output of 50 large power plants. Using off-the-shelf Sense home monitoring devices powered by artificial intelligence, the Madison-based utility and the consulting firm Cadmus determined most customers can cut their overall use by 9% just by tracking down and eliminating some of this phantom load.

ELECTRIC & SELF-DRIVING CARS

GM commits to $2.2 billion investment and 2,200 jobs at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, Detroit Free Press. The automaker said Monday the plant will provide 2,200 jobs as it shifts to become the company’s first all-electric vehicle plant. Detroit-Hamtramck will start production of an all-electric pickup in late 2021, then build the Cruise Origin, an all-electric self-driving car.

CORPORATE RENEWABLE ENERGY PROCUREMENT

Iowa Farmers Union takes aim at climate change

By Perry Beeman, Times-Republican

The Iowa Farmers Union has launched a farm by farm attack on climate change, hoping to persuade its members to plant crops that can help sweep heat-trapping carbon from the air. IFU President Aaron Heley Lehman said the federal government’s failure to set up a system that would allow farmers to sell pollution-fighting credits to large companies and others that emit greenhouse gases have forced the group to turn to its independent farmer-members to see if they can fight the problem at home. “Farmer policy has been to recognize climate change and to look for farmer solutions,” Lehman said. Read more here.

NATURAL CLIMATE SOLUTIONS

Trend: Companies warm to nature-based solutions, by Joel Makower, Chairman & Executive Director, GreenBiz Group. A study led by Ohio State University found that in 75 percent of the countries assessed, it was cheaper to use plants to mitigate air pollution than using technological inventions such as smokestack scrubbers.

ENERGY STORAGE

HOME ENERGY STORAGE 

Creating Energy Independence With Solar Panels And Storage Battery Systems In The Home, contributed Forbes article by Sheri Koones, real estate expert and author of Downsize: Living Large in a Small House and six other books.

GREEN HYDROGEN

SOLAR SCHOOLS

New WI Program Aims to Boost Solar Power in Schools, WXPR
The Midwest Renewable Energy Association has announced a plan to provide grants of $20,000 each to up to 100 schools to install a solar [system] on their campus. Amanda Schienebeck, the association’s solar-program coordinator, said they hope to join the small but growing wave of states embracing this type of energy for academic structures.

ENVIRONMENT AMERICA 

Statement: Vanderbilt University announces first step in transitioning its campus to 100 percent renewable energy, Environment America News Release

Renewable Energy 101: Tools to Move Your Campus to 100% Clean Energy

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

Bloomberg Green: Warren Buffett Is One of the World’s Richest Fossil-Fuel Billionaires

By Tom Metcalf, Bloomberg

The 10 largest fortunes with links to greenhouse gas emissions are valued at $537 billion. But while some on the list are digging in—the Koch family, for example, continues to fund politicians who resist climate change action—there are plenty of signs that the status quo is shifting, thanks in part to many of those on this very list. Volkswagen is targeting becoming carbon emission free by 2050, with planned investments and development costs in areas such as hybridization, electric cars and digitization expected to total roughly 60 billion euros between 2020 and 2024. Oil giant Lukoil saw the total amount of electricity it generated from renewable sources in 2018 increase by 30% compared to 2017, while its total investments in renewable sources in 2018 increased five-fold compared to a year earlier.  Sustainability is a strategic priority for Fiat Chrysler, which expects to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25-30% between 2018 and 2024 across its four major regions. Buffett’s impact, too, is shifting. Read more here.

Photo Credit: Flickr / William Alden

Additional Recommended Reading

The nonprofit, CDP, is also referenced in the Bloomberg article. Read more about it and other organizations that provide climate action resources for individuals, groups and corporations, below:   

As You Sow
Our mission is to promote environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies. Our vision is a safe, just, and sustainable world in which protecting the environment and human rights is central to corporate decision making. Corporations are responsible for most of the pressing social and environmental problems we face today — we believe corporations must be a willing part of the solutions. We make that happen.
Resources Include: 

As You Sow has six Invest Your Values online tools, including Fossil Free Funds, which provide a searchable database for each value.
Resources on Climate Change

Billion Dollar Green Challenge
The Billion Dollar Green Challenge (The Challenge) encourages colleges, universities, and other nonprofit institutions to invest a combined total of one billion dollars in self-managed revolving funds that finance energy efficiency improvements. Participating institutions will achieve reductions in operating expenses and greenhouse gas emissions, while creating regenerating funds for future projects. In 2011, The Sustainable Endowments Institute launched The Challenge in collaboration with 16 partner organizations to help nonprofit institutions achieve sizable energy savings through the use of green revolving funds. Green Revolving Funds: A Guide to Implementation & Management

CDP
Formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, CDP is a not-for-profit charity that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions. We believe that improving corporate awareness through measurement and disclosure is essential to the effective management of carbon and climate change risk. We request information on climate risks and low carbon opportunities from the world’s largest companies on behalf of over 525 institutional investor signatories with a combined US$96 trillion in assets. 

Ceres
Ceres is a sustainability nonprofit organization working with the most influential investors and companies to build leadership and drive solutions throughout the economy. Through powerful networks and advocacy, Ceres tackles the world’s biggest sustainability challenges, including climate change, water scarcity and pollution, and inequitable workplaces. Our mission: Ceres is transforming the economy to build a sustainable future for people and the planet.
Initiatives include: Commit to Climate, We Are Still In, Climate Action 100+ and Clean Trillion
Global Initiative: Ceres Investor Network on Climate Risk and Sustainability

Coalition for Green Capital 
The Coalition for Green Capital’s mission is to drive greater clean energy investment into existing and new markets, in the United States and in developing countries with the goal of creating a 100% clean energy platform. To realize this opportunity, CGC incubates local clean energy finance organizations – often called Green Banks – and structures public, private and mission-driven capital for investment through those organizations. A large network of local clean energy finance organizations can access hard-to-reach projects, expand clean energy equity, and provide a scalable model for a thriving network for clean energy investment.

Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
Currently celebrating our 49th year, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility pioneered the use of shareholder advocacy to press companies on environmental, social, and governance issues. Our coalition of over 300 global institutional investors currently represents more than $500 billion in managed assets. Leveraging their equity ownership in some of the world’s largest and most powerful companies, ICCR members regularly engage management to identify and mitigate social and environmental risks resulting from corporate operations and policies. While ICCR members never shy away from making the moral case for action, our fundamental proposition as investors is that responsible and sustainable business practices – and a strong corporate culture of ethics – are in the long-term interest of both companies and investors.
Resources include: 
ESG Investing & Financial Performance Reports

Proxy Preview
The annual Proxy Preview report is the #1 resource for shareholders looking to align their values with their investments. Proxy Preview is a collaboration between three organizations: As You Sow, Sustainable Investment Institute, and Proxy Impact. Proxy Preview provides the most comprehensive data on hundreds of shareholder resolutions – including environmental, corporate political spending, human rights, diversity, sustainable governance issues, and much more. Shareholder resolutions are a key form of engagement for U.S. investors interested in changing the environmental and social impacts of companies. Register for a free account to view the 2019 Proxy Preview report and watch a webinar at the website link above.
Shareholder Resources
Proxy Voting 101

Responsible Endowments Coalition
The Responsible Endowments Coalition works to build and unify the college and university-based responsible investment movement, both by educating and empowering a diverse network of individuals to act on their campuses, and by fostering a national network for collective action. We empower people to defend human rights and the environment while making both corporations and universities accountable to global stakeholders. Our goal is to foster social and environmental change by making responsible investment common practice amongst colleges and universities, and to support the next generation of activists for the endowment movement. Resources are available for: Students / Alumni / Committees, Administrators and Trustees. 

Second Nature
Since 1993, Second Nature has worked with over 4,000 faculty and administrators at hundreds of colleges and universities to help make the principles of sustainability fundamental to every aspect of higher education. In late 2006, twelve visionary college and university presidents initiated the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). They were motivated by their conviction that higher education had the capacity and responsibility to lead on climate and sustainability action for the sake of their students and society.
See: The Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments
Additional Initiatives Include:
Carbon Offset Resources for Colleges and Universities
University Climate Change Coalition (UC3)
Resource Library

Sustainable Endowments Institute
The Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) conducts research, education, and outreach to advance resilient institutional responses to climate change. Initiatives Include:

  • The Billion Dollar Green Challenge (See above).
  • GRITS, an online platform designed to streamline the tracking and calculation of project-level energy, financial, and carbon savings data for all sustainability projects and efficiency improvements.
  • The Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign: Since June of 2011, SEI has acted as a campus and endowment consultant for the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign, working with student groups and partner organizations to advocate for colleges and universities to divest their endowment funds from fossil fuel companies. For more information on the campaign, visit: Power Shift Network and GoFossilFree.org.

Additional Resources

Morgan Stanley Institute For Sustainable Investing’s Study & Survey

Editorial: Blueprint Nebraska offers opportunities for progress

Omaha World-Herald

The next stage in the economic development initiative known as Blueprint Nebraska is about to begin, and it offers major opportunities for progress for the state. It’s crucial for Nebraskans to work together to make this initiative a success. This effort will focus on key state needs, including:

  • A stronger, more nimble state economy geared to meet the demands of 21st century competition.
  • Coordinated efforts to boost communities’ ability to retain young people and welcome newcomers of all backgrounds.
  • Strategies to meet the need for affordable housing.
  • A heightened focus on K-12 and higher education as a central vehicle for state progress, with stronger connections to real-world business needs.

Continue reading here.

Blueprint Nebraska: Growing The Good Life 

Upcoming Event

 

 

 

 


UNK event to help advance, prioritize Blueprint Nebraska ideas at Feb. 14 workshop,
 News Release by Todd Gottula, University of Nebraska-Kearney Communications

Nebraska Solar Schools Education & Development Program Update

In April 2019 the Nebraska Environmental Trust awarded Nebraska Solar Schools, a Nebraskans for Solar program, a grant for $31,250 to provide statewide K-12 schools with award-winning National Energy Education Development (NEED) solar energy kits. There are four NEED grade-level kits available:

The Sun and Its Energy: Grades K-2
Wonders of the Sun: Grades 3-5
Energy from the Sun: Grades 6-8
Exploring Photovoltaics: Grades 9-12

All the materials needed for each lesson plan, project and activity are included in the kits, providing teachers a time-saving and fun way to incorporate solar energy education into their STEM-based programs. Almost all the curriculum materials in the kits are reusable, and so each kit can be used by multiple teachers. Replacement kits for consumables are available from NEED.Org at a fraction of the cost of the main kit.

To date, sixty-one K-12 schools in communities all across Nebraska have been awarded NEED Solar Energy Kits.

Nebraska Solar Schools’ next steps will be to continue the education half of the program for as long as Nebraska Environmental Trust grant funds last; develop a needs-based scholarships program for graduating seniors; and create a grants fund for the development half of the program.

Project development grants will enable Nebraska high schools using the NEED “Exploring Photovoltaics” Kit to build their own ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) project under the supervision of one or more mentors, local solar technology experts.

Each high school awarded a project-development grant will be provided a PV kit with all the materials needed to complete their school project. Nebraska Solar Schools’ website provides information for all K-12 schools wishing to install a photovoltaic system at their school.

Learn more about Nebraska Solar Schools Education & Development Program at: www.nebraskasolarschools.org.

Check out the NEED Solar Energy Kits and see examples of lesson plans, projects and activities for each grade level here: NEED Solar Energy Kits Project (PDF)

Questions? Please contact Nebraska Solar Schools Facilitator Helen Deffenbacher: helendeffenbacher@nebraskasolarschools.org