Las Vegas Sun

September 5, 2015

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SUN EDITORIAL:

Undercutting the future

Republican plan to end federal program would hurt Nevada and the nation

Developers are planning to build a 110-megawatt solar power plant north of Tonopah. The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project would be unique, using U.S.-made molten-salt technology to store energy that would allow it to provide electricity throughout the day.

The plant would be a boon to Nevada, creating 600 jobs on-site, and it would be a great source of renewable energy.

The Obama administration pledged to give plant developer SolarReserve loan guarantees this year to get the project off the ground. But, as Karoun Demirjian reported in Thursday’s Las Vegas Sun, the project may not get the guarantees because House Republicans recently voted to ax the loan guarantee program.

Why?

Republicans don’t like it because it involves renewable energy, which they apparently find detestable, and because the program was born out of the stimulus bill, which they pledged to kill.

Once again Republicans have let their blind ideology trump what’s good for the nation.

America needs to be developing renewable energy sources as part of its plan to become energy independent. But the young renewable energy industry needs a kick start, and the federal government’s program is a good way to do that. Energy projects have been able to leverage the loan guarantees for hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment, which will create both short- and long-term jobs.

For example, a new power transmission line that will stretch from Apex to Ely, opening the way for alternative energy plants in eastern Nevada, recently received a federal loan guarantee. The guarantee will allow developers to get financing, and that will be a benefit to the economy. The state will see construction jobs in the short term and in the long term there will be jobs associated with renewable energy plants. The line should also lead to cheaper electricity for Nevadans.

The loan guarantees are an investment in America, assuring the construction of plants, the creation of jobs and a better energy future. And they are vital for the success of the renewable energy industry.

The Tonopah project won’t be built without the loan guarantees, and that would be tragic. As Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve, put it, “It’s U.S. technology and U.S. jobs — it would just be ridiculous for the U.S. government to clip its wings at the last minute.”

Indeed.

The Tonopah project lies in Republican Rep. Dean Heller’s district, and Heller’s spokesman said the congressman supports the project but wouldn’t exactly endorse the loan guarantee program, saying it is “necessary to evaluate what the best role for the federal government is in encouraging growth in this industry.”

That is a shame. This program is, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “exactly the kind of public-private partnership that Nevada and the nation need to help us lead the world in clean energy jobs.”

Heller and Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., should be doing all they can to push their caucus to support the loan guarantee program. It is essential for Nevada to develop its abundant sources of renewable energy and diversify its economy.

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