Nebraska awarded $10.8 million to modernize power grid, fight climate crisis

By: - September 5, 2023 4:31 pm

Several fossil fuel plants went offline during recent winter storms either because their equipment froze or because they couldn’t get fuel, leading to blackouts in some regions. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with information from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy.

LINCOLN — Nebraska has been awarded nearly $11 million of federal funding in efforts to modernize the nation’s electric grid and fight the climate crisis.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Tuesday that Nebraska will be sent $10.8 million through the Grid Resilience State and Tribal Formula Grants program. Nebraska is among the seventh cohort of recipients, which includes eight other states and five tribes for a combined grant total of $125 million.

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy will distribute the funds in a competitive grant process through a soon-to-be-created Grid Resiliency Grant Program. The state is expected to receive $27 million total over five years.

The funding is available through the bipartisan infrastructure law of 2021, which U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., and U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., supported.

Funding will help the state’s electricity industry and its ability to withstand weather-related incidents — such as storms or heat waves — but also physical attacks and cyberattacks. A department news release states it is imperative to modernize the state’s power grid to be more reliable and resilient as energy use transitions from fossil fuels to electricity.

“With this program, Nebraska’s citizens will be able to count on a steady supply of electricity for their homes and Nebraska’s businesses will continue to be among the most reliable and competitive in the country,” NDEE Director Jim Macy said in the release.

Aaron Miller, energy section supervisor for the state, said the program will help publicly owned utilities move forward with projects in their queue amid increased stressors and demand.

NDEE intends to accept pre-proposals in early 2024 and advise prospective grantees which projects should advance for full proposals. Then, the department will evaluate the projects and send a final list to the U.S. Department of Energy for final approval.

The Grid Deployment Office listed the following goals for Nebraska’s grant money:

  • Restoring, strengthening or replacing existing equipment and substations.
  • Hardening electric system components to help withstand extreme heat, cold and severe storms and help vegetation management.
  • Acquiring adaptive protection technologies that would use real-time monitoring so the system could operate at an optimal level.
  • Supporting the creation of apprenticeships and more jobs or training opportunities as well as retaining electric energy technology workers.
  • Ensuring the benefits from funded projects are distributed equitably across the state.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said the country has already incurred $15 billion this year in extreme climate-related disasters, underscoring a need for dependable power.

“Thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda and its transformative investments, we are not only fortifying the nation’s electrical grid for the future but also empowering the American workforce, all while ensuring that the lights stay on in our communities,” Granholm said in a statement.

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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach Wendling is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, double-majoring in journalism and political science. He has interned for The Hill and The News Station in Washington, D.C., and has reported for the Nebraska News Service and The Daily Nebraskan.