Work is almost completed on the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, located near Tonopah. The developers had received a $737 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy, so if the project fails like Solyndra did, taxpayers will be on the hook for all that money. Even if we don’t have to ultimately make good on the loan, we’ll still be paying for it in lots of other ways.
Harry Reid and his Progressive followers seem determined to force Nevadans to pay for so-called “clean energy,” no matter what it costs. Maybe it’s because they really believe in the threat of “global warming” or “climate change,” or whatever they’re calling it this month. Or maybe it’s because these projects present great opportunities to award contracts to politically connected supporters like Nancy Pelosi’s brother-in-law, who was implicated in the Solyndra scandal that cost taxpayers $535 million.
As Nevada Policy Research Institute President Andy Matthews said last year, “It’s time that Senator Reid address the accumulating evidence — regularly reported in the national media and seen right here in Nevada — that state and federal government subsidies for so-called ‘clean energy’ initiatives are only a huge, wasteful, crony-capitalist boondoggle.”
Harry Reid likes to brag about all the alternative energy projects he brought to Nevada, but how many jobs have they created? Solar plants like Crescent Dunes bring in some construction jobs while they’re being built, but they require a very small workforce once they’re completed. It’s estimated that Crescent Dunes will employ about 45 full-time people. The solar plants already in place near Primm and Boulder City have only seven full-time employees combined, although they received $12 million in tax rebates from the state. At the same time, Reid has used his clout on several occasions to kill coal-powered plants in rural Nevada, which would have brought in desperately needed jobs.
Not only do these taxpayer-funded projects fail to produce jobs, but the bottom line is that alternative energy is expensive energy. NV Energy pays 3 to 5 cents per kilowatt-hour for natural gas and coal-fueled power, 8 to 10 cents for geothermal and wind energy, and 11 to 13 cents for solar photovoltaic energy. These costs are of course passed on to the rate-payers in the form of higher power bills. According to the Energy Information Administration, Nevada’s residential electricity rates are about 26 percent higher than those of other Intermountain West states and 7 percent higher than the national average.
NV Energy isn’t to blame for this situation. In 2005, Nevada politicians passed a law requiring public utilities to purchase the higher-priced electricity. According to the Nevada Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS): “The percentage of renewable energy required by the RPS will increase every two years until it reaches 25 percent in 2025. Included within the RPS is a requirement that at least 5 percent of the total renewable energy in the portfolio must be generated by solar facilities through 2015 and at least 6 percent must be generated by solar facilities beginning in 2016.”
Because the RPS keeps racheting upward, the situation is not going to get better any time soon. In fact, on May 2, NV Energy filed a proposed rate hike with the Public Utilities Commission that would amount to about a 1.85 percent increase for residential customers. So, thanks to Harry Reid and other liberal politicians, Nevada citizens are being forced to take money out of their pockets to subsidize expensive feel-good projects that bring in only a handful of jobs and put U.S. taxpayers at risk if they fail.
By Whose Authority?
For more information on my Commentary and to see some of the backup research, or if you wonder why I take the position I take, go to www.LyleBrennan.com.