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Nebraska   Nebraska Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

Profile AnalysisPrint State Energy Profile
(overview, data, & analysis)

Last Updated: February 15, 2018

Overview

Nebraska has considerable renewable energy resources, but few fossil energy reserves.1,2 Located in the center of the continental United States, Nebraska is in the nation's Tornado Alley, where warm air from the south often meets polar air from the north, and tornadoes and thunderstorms are common in the spring and summer. The state's climate varies greatly from season to season, with harsh winters and hot summers.3 Although the western half of the state is semiarid, the plains' fertile soils make Nebraska a leading agricultural state. Corn is the state's most important crop, and Nebraska is one of the nation's top producers of ethanol.4,5 The state's additional biomass resources include landfill gas, methane, wood, and wood waste.6 Nebraska is a Great Plains state, and the broad plains that occupy much of the state have some of the nation's best wind energy resources.7,8 The wide rivers that cross the state provide hydropower, and abundant sunshine offers a good solar resource.9,10 Uranium mining in northwestern Nebraska produces an ore that is made into fuel for nuclear power plants.11

Nebraska is one of the world's major meatpacking centers. Its energy-intensive food processing industry leads the manufacturing sector.

Nebraska ranks among the top 10 states in energy consumption per person.12 The industrial sector is the largest end-use energy consumer in the state.13 Nebraska is one of the world's major meatpacking centers, and the energy-intensive food processing industry leads the state's manufacturing sector. Other energy-intensive industries in the state include chemical manufacturing—particularly of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and fertilizers—and machinery manufacturing and agriculture.14,15,16,17 Transportation, Nebraska's second-largest end-use energy-consuming sector, uses about half as much energy as the industrial sector.18 With temperatures that reach occasional summer highs above 110°F and winter lows of minus 30°F, Nebraska is one of the states with the highest residential sector per capita energy consumption.19,20

Petroleum

Nebraska has modest petroleum reserves equal to less than 0.1% of the nation's total.21,22 Commercial quantities of crude oil have been produced in the state since 1939. Annual production peaked at nearly 25 million barrels in 1962 but has declined substantially since then.23 In 2016, Nebraska's crude oil production was less than one-tenth of its peak.24 The Niobrara shale formation, an emerging oil play in Colorado and Wyoming, extends into Nebraska, but significant Niobrara crude oil production has not been established in the state.25,26

Agriculture, a leading component of Nebraska’s industrial sector, uses natural gas to run irrigation pumps and as natural gas-based fertilizer.

Nebraska does not have any crude oil refineries.27 A network of petroleum product pipelines connects Nebraska markets to refining centers in nearby states.28 A crude oil pipeline that crosses southern Nebraska transports crude oil from Wyoming to refineries in the Midwest. A second pipeline crosses eastern Nebraska, moving crude oil from Canada and North Dakota south to Cushing, Oklahoma, and from there to Texas refineries.29,30 A proposed additional crude oil pipeline, the Keystone XL, was originally routed through the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region of north-central and northwestern Nebraska.31 An area of sloping hills and small lakes, the Sand Hills region sits on top of the Ogallala Aquifer, a vast, shallow aquifer that extends beneath parts of eight states and provides groundwater crucial for agriculture in the semiarid Plains states, particularly Nebraska.32,33 An alternative pipeline route was approved by the Nebraska Public Service Commission in November 2017, and construction is expected to begin in 2019.34,35

Most of the petroleum used in Nebraska is consumed either as motor gasoline or as distillate fuel oil.36 The share of petroleum consumed in Nebraska as distillate fuel oil is greater than in all but two other states.37 Distillate fuel oil includes diesel fuel used both on-highway for transportation and off-highway by agricultural machinery. Distillate fuel also includes fuel oil used for space heating.38 About four-fifths of Nebraska's petroleum consumption occurs in the transportation sector.39 Nebraska has no U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-identified non-attainment areas for air quality, and conventional motor gasoline without ethanol added can be used statewide.40,41 However, Nebraska is the nation's second-largest producer of ethanol and has more than 90 fueling stations selling E85, a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.42,43,44 The industrial sector, which includes agriculture, is the second-largest petroleum-consuming sector in the state; it uses about one-fifth as much as the transportation sector.45 About 1 in 12 Nebraska households heat their homes with petroleum products. Almost all of those households use propane.46

Natural gas

Nebraska does not have any significant natural gas reserves.47 Production in the state has declined substantially from its peak of more than 28 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 1960 to only slightly more than a half billion cubic feet in 2016.48,49 Nebraska relies on interstate deliveries to meet most of its natural gas needs.50 Natural gas produced in the Rocky Mountain region, Texas, and Oklahoma enters Nebraska by pipeline from Wyoming, Kansas, and Colorado.51 More than nine-tenths of the natural gas entering Nebraska leaves the state. Much of it returns to Colorado and Kansas or is shipped east through Iowa and Missouri.52 Some of the natural gas received in Nebraska is stored in the state's one storage field, which has a total capacity of about 35 billion cubic feet.53,54

Nebraska's industrial sector consumes almost three-fifths of the natural gas delivered to end users in the state.55 Agriculture, a leading component of Nebraska's industrial sector, uses natural gas to run irrigation pumps and as natural gas-based fertilizer.56 The residential sector is the second-largest natural gas-consuming sector in Nebraska, but, even though three of every five homes use natural gas for heating, that sector uses only slightly more than one-third as much natural gas as the state's industrial sector.57,58 The commercial sector uses slightly less natural gas than the residential sector, and only about 4% of the natural gas consumed in Nebraska is used for electric power generation.59

Coal

Nebraska has no commercial coal production and must acquire all the coal it needs from out of state. Nearly all of the coal consumed in Nebraska arrives by rail from the nearby low-sulfur coal fields in Wyoming's Powder River Basin.60,61 Most of the coal consumed in Nebraska is used for electricity generation. A very small amount of coal is delivered to industrial consumers.62

Electricity

Coal-fired power plants provide the largest share of Nebraska's net electricity generation, about three-fifths. Nearly all of the rest of the state's net generation is shared about equally between renewable resources, primarily wind, and nuclear power.63 Nebraska had two nuclear power plants, Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station and Cooper Nuclear Station, located along the Missouri River on the state's eastern border.64,65 In October 2016, citing economic factors, the Omaha Public Power District permanently shut down the Fort Calhoun reactor, cutting nuclear power's contribution from about one-fourth to around one-fifth of in-state generation.66 Small amounts of generation from conventional hydroelectric power, natural gas, biomass, solar energy, and petroleum provide the state with the rest of its net electricity generation.67

Nebraska has one active uranium mine. Uranium was discovered in Nebraska in 1980, and operations began at the Crow Butte mine in the state's northwestern corner in 1991. In 2016, Crow Butte was one of only six operating uranium in-situ-leach mines in the nation.68,69 In-situ-leach mining extracts uranium from the ore by dissolving it with chemicals and pumping the resulting mixture to the surface where the uranium is recovered from solution.70

Nebraska is the only state in which all electricity providers are non-profit organizations.

Nebraska is the only state in which all electricity providers are non-profit organizations—either public power districts, municipal power systems, or rural electric cooperatives.71 Nebraska's retail electricity rates are in the lowest third of states, and retail sales of electricity in the state are fairly evenly divided between the industrial, commercial, and residential sectors.72 Nebraska has the third-highest number of industrial electricity customers of any state.73 A significant share of Nebraska's industrial consumption is seasonal demand from farmers for irrigation systems.74 About 3 in 10 Nebraska households rely on electricity for space heating.75 Overall, more electricity is produced in Nebraska than is consumed there, and, in 2016, more than one-tenth of the state's net generation was sent out of state.76

Renewable energy

Nebraska obtains the majority of its renewable electricity generation from wind power.

Renewable resources fuel almost one-fifth of Nebraska's net electricity generation, and the state has substantial undeveloped renewable resource potential. Wind is the largest source of Nebraska's renewable electricity generation. In 2016, Nebraska obtained more than two-thirds of its renewable generation from wind energy.77 Wind-powered generation in the state has been increasing in recent years, more than doubling between 2013 and 2016.78 Nebraska has wind resource potential across almost the entire state, and, although Nebraska is 1 of 18 states with more than one gigawatt of installed wind generating capacity, only a small fraction of its wind resource has been developed.79,80

Hydroelectric facilities produce most of the rest of Nebraska's renewable electricity generation. Nebraska typically obtains less than 5% of its total net electricity generation from hydroelectric power, with annual generation varying with water availability.81 There are 11 hydropower generating plants in Nebraska, and there is little potential for the development of additional conventional hydroelectric facilities in the state.82 However, the use of small-scale generators in natural water flows may be feasible.83

Nebraska also has substantial solar power potential.84 Solar resources are greatest in the western part of the state, but development is limited.85,86 The largest solar photovoltaic (PV) project in Nebraska, a 5.8-megawatt facility, became operational in December 2017.87 Nebraska does not generate electricity from geothermal energy, and, although moderate geothermal energy potential exists across much of the state, there are only a few small areas in northwestern Nebraska with high-temperature resources.88,89,90 However, geothermal energy is used for heating and cooling buildings.91

Nebraska is the nation’s second-largest producer of ethanol.

Nebraska is second only to Iowa in the production of corn-based ethanol.92 There are 25 active ethanol-producing plants in the state, with the highest concentrations in southern Nebraska. Producers in the state use more than 700 million bushels of grain to manufacture more than 2 billion gallons of ethanol per year.93 Most of the ethanol produced in Nebraska is shipped to other states.94 Nebraska also has one commercial biodiesel plant in operation, a facility retrofitted to use a variety of feedstocks and produce 50 million gallons annually.95,96 The state also has biomass resources from woody biomass, crop residues, animal waste, and municipal solid waste.97,98 There are two wood pellet plants in the state, and there are also landfill gas and waste biomass electricity generation facilities in Nebraska.99,100

Nebraska does not have a renewable energy standard.101 The state does have a number of renewable energy tax credits, as well as interconnection and net metering rules for distributed (customer-sited, small-scale) solar photovoltaics, landfill gas, wind, biomass, geothermal electric, anaerobic digestion, and small hydroelectric power generation.102 Net metered connections are limited to 1% of each utility's average monthly peak demand.103 Nebraska also has a statewide building energy code.104

Endnotes

1 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), State Energy Profiles, Nebraska, Reserves, accessed January 23, 2018.
2 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report 2016 (February 14, 2017), p. 32-36.
3 Dutcher, Al, "Nebraska: Home of the Whopper," The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, State Climate Series (2011).
4 NETSTATE, Nebraska, Nebraska Economy, updated December 19, 2017.
5 Nebraska Energy Office, Ethanol Facilities' Capacity by State, updated January 11, 2018.
6 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report 2016 (February 14, 2017), p. 32-36.
7 Encyclopedia.com, Nebraska, from Worldmark Encyclopedia of the States (2007).
8 American Wind Energy Association, Nebraska Wind Energy, accessed January 23, 2018.
9 U.S. EIA, Nebraska, Profile Overview, Hydroelectric Power Plant Map Layer, accessed January 23, 2018.
10 Nebraska Energy Office, Comparison of Solar Power Potential by State, updated March 11, 2010.
11 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report 2016 (February 14, 2017), p. 33.
12 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C13, Energy Consumption Estimates per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2015.
13 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C10, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2015.
14 NETSTATE, Nebraska, Nebraska Economy, updated December 19, 2017.
15 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Interactive Data, Regional Data, GDP & Personal Income, Begin using the data, Annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by State, GDP in Current Dollars, Classification NAICS, All Industries, Nebraska, Time Period 2015.
16 U.S. EIA, "Energy for growing and harvesting crops is a large component of farm operating costs," Today in Energy (October 17, 2014).
17 U.S. EIA, "Many industrial electricity customers are farmers," Today in Energy (May 12, 2014).
18 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C10, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2015.
19 Dutcher, Al, "Nebraska: Home of the Whopper," The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, State Climate Series (2011).
20 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C13, Energy Consumption Estimates per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2015.
21 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Plus Lease Condensate Proved Reserves, Reserve Changes and Production, United States, 2010-15.
22 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Plus Lease Condensate Proved Reserves, Reserve Changes and Production, Nebraska, 2010-15
23 Nebraska Energy Office, Crude Oil Production in Nebraska, updated October 10, 2017.
24 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Production, Annual-Thousand Barrels, 2011-16.
25 Niobrara Shale, Oil & Gas Journal, accessed January 24, 2018.
26 "While Nebraska Interest Piques, No Niobrara Boom Expected," Oil & Gas Journal (July 1, 2013).
27 U.S. EIA, Number and Capacity of Petroleum Refineries, Nebraska, Annual (as of January 1), 2012-17.
28 U.S. EIA, Nebraska, Profile Overview, Petroleum Product Pipeline Map Layer, accessed January 24, 2018.
29 U.S. EIA, Nebraska, Profile Overview, Crude Oil Pipeline Map Layer, accessed January 24, 2018.
30 TransCanada, Keystone Pipeline System, Overview, accessed January 24, 2018.
31 McGowan, Elizabeth, "Nebraskans Determined to Reroute Keystone XL Around Aquifer as Decision Time Nears," InsideClimate News (September 16, 2011).
32 University of Nebraska-Lincoln, West Central Research and Extension Center, About the Sandhills, accessed January 23, 2018.
33 U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Resources Conservation Service, Groundwater Irrigation and Water Withdrawals: The Ogallala Initiative (August 2013), Summary.
34 Wernick, Adam, "The Keystone XL pipeline gets a victory, but with a question mark," Public Radio International (December 12, 2017).
35 McKenna, Phil, "Keystone XL Pipeline Has Enough Oil Suppliers, Will Be Built, TransCanada Says," InsideClimate News (January 18, 2018).
36 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C2, Energy Consumption Estimates for Major Energy Sources in Physical Units, 2015.
37 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C2, Energy Consumption Estimates for Major Energy Sources in Physical Units, 2015.
38 U.S. EIA, Glossary, Distillate Fuel Oil, accessed January 24, 2018.
39 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Nebraska Tables CT3, CT7.
40 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gasoline Standards, Gasoline Programs, Reformulated gasoline, Reid vapor pressure, and Winter oxygenates, accessed January 24, 2018.
41 Gardner, K., U.S. Gasoline Requirements, ExxonMobil, updated June 2015.
42 Nebraska Energy Office, Ethanol Facilities' Capacity by State, updated January 11, 2018.
43 U.S. EIA, Nebraska, Profile Data, Distribution & Marketing, accessed January 23, 2018.
44 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, Alternative Fueling Station Counts by State, updated January 30, 2018.
45 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Nebraska Tables CT3, CT6, CT7.
46 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Nebraska, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.
47 U.S. EIA, Nebraska Profile Data, Reserves, accessed January 25, 2018.
48 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report 2016 (February 14, 2017), p. 33.
49 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Nebraska, Annual-Million Cubic Feet, 2011-16.
50 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Nebraska, Annual, 2011-16.
51 U.S. EIA, About U.S. Natural Gas Pipelines, Natural Gas Pipelines in the Central Region, accessed January 25, 2018.
52 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Nebraska, Annual, 2011-16.
53 U.S. EIA, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Total Number of Existing Fields, Annual, 2011-16.
54 U.S. EIA, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Total Storage Capacity, Annual, 2011-16.
55 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Nebraska, Annual, 2011-16.
56 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report 2016 (February 14, 2017), p. 15-18.
57 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Nebraska, Annual, 2011-16.
58 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Nebraska, Table B25040, 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.
59 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Nebraska, Annual, 2011-16.
60 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report 2016 (February 14, 2017), p. 33.
61 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2016 (November 2017), Nebraska Table DS-26, Domestic Coal Distribution, by Destination State, 2016.
62 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2016 (November 2017), Table 26, U.S. Coal Consumption by End Use Sector, Census Division, and State, 2016 and 2015.
63 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (January 2018), Tables 1.3.B, 1.4.B, 1.7.B, 1.9.B, 1.10.B, 1.11.B, 1.14.B.
64 U.S. EIA, State Nuclear Profile, Nebraska (2010).
65 U.S. EIA, Nebraska, Profile Overview, Layers/Legend, Nuclear Power Plant, accessed January 23, 2018.
66 Omaha Public Power District, OPPD's Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station Historical Highlights, revised December 2017.
67 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (January 2018), Tables 1.3.B, 1.5.B, 1.7.B, 1.9.B, 1.10.B, 1.14.B, 1.15.B, 1.17.B.
68 Cameco Resources, Crow Butte, accessed January 26, 2018.
69 U.S. EIA, 2016 Domestic Uranium Production Report (May 2017), Table 5, U.S. uranium in-situ-leach plants by owner, location, capacity, and operating status at end of the year, 2011-16.
70 World Nuclear Association, In Situ Leach Mining of Uranium, updated October 2017.
71 Nebraska Power Association, Public Power—How Nebraskans Benefit, accessed January 26, 2018.
72 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (January 2018), Tables 5.4.B, 5.6.B.
73 U.S. EIA, "Many industrial electricity customers are farmers," Today in Energy (May 12, 2014).
74 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report 2016 (February 14, 2017), p. 17.
75 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Nebraska, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.
76 U.S. EIA, Nebraska Electricity Profile 2016, Table 10, Supply and disposition of electricity, 1990 through 2016.
77 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (January 2018), Table 1.3.B, 1.10.B, 1.11.B, 1.14.B.
78 U.S. EIA, Nebraska Electricity Profile 2016, Table 5, Electric power industry generation by primary energy source, 1990 through 2016.
79 American Wind Energy Association, Wind Energy in Nebraska, accessed January 26, 2018.
80 U. S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Nebraska 80-Meter Wind Resource Map, accessed January 26, 2018.
81 U.S. EIA, Nebraska Electricity Profile 2016, Table 5, Electric power industry generation by primary energy source, 1990 through 2016.
82 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form U.S. EIA-860 Detailed Data, 2016 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only).
83 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report 2016 (February 14, 2017), p. 35.
84 Nebraska Energy Office, Comparison of Solar Power Potential by State, updated March 11, 2010.
85 National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Photovoltaic Solar Resource of the United States, accessed January 27, 2018.
86 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report 2016 (February 14, 2017), p. 36.
87 Konz, Mike, "Switch is on at Kearney's solar farm: $11M facility is Nebraska's largest," Kearney Hub (December 11, 2017).
88 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (January 2018), Table 1.16.B.
89 U.S. EIA, Nebraska Profile Overview, Geothermal Potential Map Layer, accessed January 27, 2018.
90 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report 2016 (February 14, 2017), p. 34.
91 Nebraska Energy Office, Geothermal Projects in Nebraska, updated May 31, 2017.
92 Nebraska Energy Office, Ethanol Facilities' Capacity by State, updated January 11, 2018.
93 Nebraska Ethanol Board, Nebraska Ethanol Plants, updated July 10, 2017.
94 U.S. EIA, Nebraska Profile Data, Environment, accessed January 27, 2018.
95 Koperski, Scott, "Expansion already being discussed at Beatrice biodiesel plant," Lincoln Journal Star (February 13, 2017).
96 Nebraska Energy Office, Nebraska's Biodiesel Production Capacity, updated October 12, 2016.
97 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report 2015 (February 12, 2016), p. 36.
98 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report 2016 (February 14, 2017), p. 34.
99 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form U.S. EIA-860 Detailed Data, 2016 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only).
100 "U.S. Pellet Plants," Biomass Magazine (May 17, 2017).
101 Durkay, Jocelyn, State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, National Conference of State Legislatures (August 1, 2017).
102 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Nebraska, Programs, accessed January 27, 2018.
103 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Nebraska, Net Metering, updated June 23, 2015.
104 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Nebraska, Building Energy Code, updated October 5, 2015.