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Nebraska   Nebraska Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

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

Last Updated: February 16, 2017

Overview

Located in the center of the continental United States, Nebraska's plains have fertile soils and considerable renewable resources but few fossil energy resources.1,2 The state's climate varies greatly from season to season, with temperatures ranging from a summer high of 118°F to a winter low of minus 47°F. The state is located 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.3 Although the western half of the state is semiarid, Nebraska is a leading agricultural state. Corn is the most important crop, and the state is one of the nation's top producers of ethanol.4,5 Nebraska's wide plains have some of the nation's best wind energy resources,6 its rivers provide hydropower, and its agriculture offers biomass for electricity generation.7,8

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.9 The industrial sector is the largest end-use energy consumer in the state.10 Nebraska is one of the world's major meatpacking centers, and the energy-intensive food processing industry leads the state's manufacturing sector. Other major energy-intensive industries in the state include chemical manufacturing-particularly of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and fertilizers-and machinery manufacturing and agriculture.11,12,13,14 Transportation, Nebraska's second-largest end-use energy-consuming sector, uses about half as much energy as the industrial sector.15 With the state's harsh winters and hot summers, per capita energy consumption by Nebraska's residential sector is among the highest in the nation.16 More than three-fifths of Nebraska households heat their homes with natural gas, another one-fourth use electricity, and about 8% use liquefied petroleum gas.17

Petroleum

Nebraska began producing crude oil commercially in 1939. Annual production peaked at nearly 25 million barrels in 1962.18 In 2015, Nebraska's crude oil production was about one-eighth of its peak, and the state held less than 0.1% of U.S. estimated proved crude oil reserves.19,20,21 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.22

Nebraska does not have any crude oil refining capacity.23 A network of petroleum product pipelines connects Nebraska markets to refining centers in nearby states.24,25 Crude oil moves via pipeline through southern Nebraska on its way from Wyoming to refineries in the Midwest.26 A proposed additional crude oil pipeline, routed through the Sand Hills of north-central and northwestern Nebraska, has stalled,27 but could be revived.28,29 An area of sloping hills and small lakes, the Sand Hills region sits on top of the Ogallala Aquifer.30 The Ogallala, a vast, shallow aquifer that extends beneath parts of eight states, provides groundwater crucial for agriculture in the semiarid Plains states, particularly Nebraska,31,32 and is considered environmentally sensitive.33

Nebraska farmers use more energy from diesel fuel than from any other source.34 In 2014, more than two-fifths of the petroleum consumed in Nebraska was diesel fuel, the third highest proportion of any state after North Dakota and Wyoming.35 Nebraska has no U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-identified non-attainment areas for air quality and allows the statewide use of conventional motor gasoline without ethanol added.36,37 However, Nebraska is the nation's second-largest producer of ethanol38 and has more than 70 fueling stations selling E85, a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.39,40

Natural gas

Natural gas production in Nebraska has been declining. With less than a half billion cubic feet of natural gas marketed in 2015 from fewer than 150 producing wells statewide, Nebraska must rely on interstate deliveries to meet most of its natural gas needs.41,42,43 Natural gas produced in the Rocky Mountain region, Texas, and Oklahoma enters Nebraska by pipeline from Wyoming, Kansas, and Colorado.44 More than nine-tenths of the natural gas entering Nebraska is shipped on to other states.45 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.46

Nebraska's leading natural gas-consuming sector is industry. Even though more than three-fifths of Nebraska households use natural gas as their primary fuel for home heating,47 and the residential sector ranks second in natural gas consumption, the residential sector still uses less than half as much as the industrial sector. The commercial sector uses less natural gas than the residential sector, and less than 5% of natural gas delivered to Nebraska consumers is used for electric power generation.48

Coal

Nebraska has no commercial coal production and must acquire all the coal it needs from out of state.49 Nearly all of the coal consumed in Nebraska arrives by rail from Wyoming.50 Most of the coal is used for electricity generation. A very small amount of coal is delivered to industrial consumers.51

Electricity

Coal-fired power plants typically supply about three-fifths of Nebraska's net electricity generation, and nuclear power contributes about one-fourth.52,53 Nebraska's two nuclear power plants, Fort Calhoun and Cooper, are located along the Missouri River on the state's eastern border.54,55 In October 2016, citing economic factors, the Omaha Public Power District shut down the Fort Calhoun reactor permanently. Fort Calhoun was the smallest nuclear power reactor operating in the U.S.56 Nebraska gets most of the rest of its net electricity generation from wind, along with small amounts of generation from conventional hydroelectric power, natural gas, biomass, and petroleum.57

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 2015, Crow Butte was one of only six operating uranium in-situ-leach mines in the nation.58,59 In-situ-leach mining extracts uranium by dissolving the ore with chemical injections and pumping the resulting mixture out of the ground.60

Nebraska typically produces more electricity than it consumes.61 Electricity consumption in the state is fairly evenly divided among the industrial, commercial, and residential sectors.62 Nebraska has the third highest number of industrial electricity customers of any state. A significant share of the state's industrial consumption is seasonal demand from farmers for irrigation systems.63 Slightly more than one-fourth of Nebraska households rely on electricity for their primary heating needs.64 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.65 Nebraska's retail electricity rates are in the lowest third of state rates.66

Renewable energy

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

Renewable resources fuel about one-ninth of Nebraska's net electricity generation,67 and the state has substantial undeveloped renewable potential. Wind is the largest source of Nebraska's renewable electricity generation. In 2015, Nebraska obtained three-fourths of its renewable generation from wind energy, and the share from wind has been increasing in recent years.68,69 About nine-tenths of the state is estimated to have suitable conditions for utility-scale wind-powered electricity generation, and Nebraska is fifth among the states in available land area suitable for commercial-scale wind power.70,71

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.72 Fewer than a dozen of the state's 2,800 dams have hydroelectric generating facilities.73,74,75 Most dams are earthen embankments,76 and there is little potential for further utility-scale hydroelectric facilities, although micro-hydroelectric generators that use natural water flows may be feasible.77 Nebraska also has substantial solar power potential,78 but solar development has not been economical in most regions.79 Small areas in the northwest and along the north-central border of the state have moderate geothermal energy potential, and geothermal heating and cooling is being used for buildings.80,81

Nebraska is the nation's second largest producer of ethanol.

Nebraska is second only to Iowa in the production of corn-based ethanol.82 Nebraska has 25 active ethanol-producing plants spread across 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.83 Most of the ethanol produced in Nebraska is shipped to other states.84 Nebraska also has one commercial biodiesel plant in operation, a facility retrofitted to use a variety of feedstocks and produce 50 million gallons annually, and two small biodiesel facilities that have suspended production because of poor economics.85,86,87 Nebraska also has biomass resources from woody biomass, crop residues, manure management, and municipal solid waste.88

Nebraska does not have a renewable energy standard.89 The state does have a number of renewable energy tax credits,90 as well as interconnection and net metering rules for distributed (customer-sited, small-scale) solar photovoltaics, landfill gas, wind, biomass, hydroelectric, geothermal electric, anaerobic digestion, and small hydroelectric power generation. Net metered connections are limited to 1% of each utility's average monthly peak demand.91 Nebraska also has a statewide building energy code.92

Endnotes

1 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), State Energy Profiles, Nebraska, Reserves & Supply, accessed January 23, 2017.
2 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report (2015), p. 34-38.
3 Dutcher, Al, "Nebraska: Home of the Whopper," The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, State Climate Series (2011).
4 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, State Fact Sheets, Overview, Nebraska, updated December 8, 2015, Top Commodities, Exports, and Counties.
5 Nebraska Energy Office, Ethanol Facilities' Capacity by State, updated October 20, 2016.
6 U. S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Nebraska Wind Resource Map and Potential Wind Capacity, updated September 24, 2015.
7 Nebraska Energy Office, Biomass Energy Generation in Nebraska, updated January 12, 2017.
8 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report (2015), p. 36-37.
9 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C13, Energy Consumption Estimates per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2014.
10 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C10, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2014.
11 Netstate, Nebraska, Nebraska Economy, updated February 25, 2016.
12 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Data, GDP & Personal Income, Begin using the data, Annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by State, GDP in Current Dollars, Classification NAICS, All Industries, Time Period 2013-15.
13 U.S. EIA, "Energy for growing and harvesting crops is a large component of farm operating costs," Today in Energy (October 17, 2014).
14 U.S. EIA, "Many industrial electricity customers are farmers," Today in Energy (May 12, 2014).
15 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C10, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2014.
16 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C13, Energy Consumption Estimates per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2014.
17 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Nebraska, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2015 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.
18 Nebraska Energy Office, Crude Oil Production in Nebraska, updated September 26, 2016.
19 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Production, Annual-Thousand Barrels, 2010-15.
20 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Plus Lease Condensate Proved Reserves, Reserve Changes and Production, United States, 2010-15.
21 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Plus Lease Condensate Proved Reserves, Reserve Changes and Production, Nebraska, 2010-15
22 "While Nebraska Interest Piques, No Niobrara Boom Expected," Oil & Gas Journal (July 1, 2013).
23 U.S. EIA, Number and Capacity of Petroleum Refineries, Nebraska, Annual (as of January 1), 2011-16.
24 U.S. EIA, Nebraska, Profile Data, Distribution & Marketing, accessed January 23, 2017.
25 U.S. EIA, Nebraska, Profile Overview, Map, Layer: Pipelines and Transmission, accessed January 23, 2017.
26 American Petroleum Institute, Pipeline 101, Where Are Liquids Pipelines Located? Region 6, accessed January 25, 2017.
27 Cama, Timothy, "Keystone XL: Not Dead Yet?" The Hill (November 10, 2015).
28 Dehaas, Josh, "Liberals Ask President Trump To Approve Keystone XL Pipeline," CTV News (January 20, 2017).
29 Jacobs, Jennifer, Jennifer Dlouhy, and Meenal Vamburkar, "Trump Pins Keystone and Dakota Pipeline Fate on Renegotiation," Bloomberg (January 24, 2017).
30 University of Nebraska-Lincoln, West Central Research and Extension Center, About the Sandhills, accessed January 23, 2017.
31 Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, Ogallala Aquifer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, accessed January 23, 2017.
32 U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Resources Conservation Service, Groundwater Irrigation and Water Withdrawals: The Ogallala Initiative (August 2013), Summary.
33 U.S. Department of State, Keystone XL Pipeline Project, Keystone XL Pipeline Evaluation Process Fact Sheet 2012.
34 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report (2015), p. 17-18.
35 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C2, Energy Consumption Estimates for Major Energy Sources in Physical Units, 2014.
36 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gasoline Standards, Gasoline Programs, Reformulated gasoline, Reid vapor pressure, and Winter oxygenates, updated January 17, 2017.
37 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Book, Nonattainment Areas for Criteria Pollutants, updated September 22, 2016.
38 Nebraska Energy Office, Ethanol Facilities' Capacity by State, updated October 20, 2016.
39 U.S. EIA, Nebraska, Profile Data, Distribution & Marketing, accessed January 23, 2017.
40 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, Alternative Fueling Station Counts by State, updated January 23, 2017.
41 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Marketed Production, Annual-Million Cubic Feet, 2010-15.
42 U.S. EIA, Number of Producing Gas Wells, Annual, 2010-15.
43 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Nebraska, Annual, 2010-15.
44 U.S. EIA, About U.S. Natural Gas Pipelines, Natural Gas Pipelines in the Central Region, accessed January 23, 2017.
45 U.S. EIA, International & Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Nebraska, Annual, 2010-15.
46 U.S. EIA, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Nebraska, Annual, 2010-15.
47 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Nebraska, Table B25040, 2015 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.
48 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Nebraska, Annual, 2010-15.
49 U.S. EIA, Nebraska, Profile Data, Reserves & Supply, accessed January 23, 2017.
50 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015 (November 17, 2016), Domestic distribution of U.S. coal by destination State, consumer, destination and method of transportation, Nebraska.
51 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 3, 2016), Table 26, U.S. Coal Consumption by End Use Sector, Census Division, and State, 2015 and 2014.
52 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2016), Tables 1.3.B, 1.4.B, 1.9.B.
53 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Detailed State Data, Annual data, 1990-2015 Net Generation by State by Type of Producer by Energy Source (EIA-906, EIA-920, and EIA-923).
54 U.S. EIA, State Nuclear Profile, Nebraska (2010).
55 U.S. EIA, Nebraska, Profile Overview, Layers/Legend, Nuclear Power Plant, accessed January 23, 2017.
56 "Fort Calhoun Nuke Plant Goes Dark," Lincoln Journal Star (October 24, 2016).
57 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2016), Tables 1.5.B, 1.7.B. 1.10.B, 1.15.B.
58 Cameco USA, Crow Butte, accessed January 23, 2017.
59 U.S. EIA, Domestic Uranium Production Report-Annual (May 5, 2016), Table 5, U.S. uranium in-situ-leach plants by owner, location, capacity, and operating status at end of the year, 2011-15.
60 World Nuclear Association, In Situ Leach Mining of Uranium, updated November 2016.
61 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C1, Energy Consumption Overview: Estimates by Energy Source and End-Use Sector, 2014.
62 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2016), Table 5.4.B.
63 U.S. EIA, "Many industrial electricity customers are farmers," Today in Energy (May 12, 2014).
64 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Nebraska, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2015 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.
65 Nebraska Power Association, Public Power-How Nebraskans Benefit, accessed January 23, 2017.
66 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2016), Table 5.6.B.
67 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2016), Tables 1.3.B, 1.10.B, 1.11.B.
68 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Detailed State Data, Annual data, 1990-2015 Net Generation by State by Type of Producer by Energy Source (EIA-906, EIA-920, and EIA-923).
69 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (December 2016), Table 1.3.B, 1.14.B.
70 U. S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Nebraska Wind Resource Map and Potential Wind Capacity, updated September 24, 2015, see table link.
71 U.S. Census Bureau, Geography, State Area Measurements and Internal Point Coordinates (January 1, 2010).
72 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Detailed State Data, Annual data, 1990-2015 Net Generation by State by Type of Producer by Energy Source (EIA-906, EIA-920, and EIA-923).
73 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form U.S. EIA-860 Detailed Data, updated October 6, 2016, 2015, Table 3_1_GeneratorY2015.
74 Global Energy Observatory, Current List of Hydro Power Plants, updated January 5, 2017.
75 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report (2015), p. 37.
76 Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, Dam Safety, accessed January 23, 2017.
77 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report (2015), p. 37.
78 U.S. Department of Energy, Photovoltaic Resource of the United States (September 19, 2012).
79 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report (2015), p. 37.
80 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report (2015), p. 36-37.
81 U.S. EIA, Nebraska, Profile Overview, Layer, Geothermal Potential, accessed January 23, 2017.
82 Nebraska Energy Office, Ethanol Facilities' Capacity by State, updated October 20, 2016.
83 Nebraska Ethanol Board, Nebraska Ethanol Plants, updated October 19, 2016.
84 U.S. EIA, Nebraska, Profile Data, Environment, accessed January 23, 2017.
85 Kotrba, Ron, "Biodiesel Renaissance," Biodiesel Magazine (January 13, 2017).
86 Nebraska Energy Office, Nebraska's Biodiesel Production Capacity, updated October 12, 2016.
87 Simet, Anna, "Standing on Its Own 2 Feet," Biodiesel Magazine (January 19, 2016), see Duonix Beatrice.
88 Nebraska Energy Office, Annual Report (2015), p. 36.
89 National Conference of State Legislatures, State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals (December 28, 2016).
90 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Nebraska, Programs, accessed January 23, 2017.
91 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Nebraska, Net Metering, updated June 23, 2015.
92 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Nebraska, Building Energy Code, updated October 5, 2015.