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April 16, 2014

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State grabbing stimulus cash targeting renewable energy

Energy-related stimulus money is rolling into the Silver State, but jobs are slow to follow.

To date, the state and companies operating in Nevada have been awarded $422.2 million of the $21.3 billion set aside nationally for energy efficiency, renewable energy and smart grid technology in the $787 billion stimulus bill.

The Recovery Act set aside a total $36.7 billion for energy projects nationwide.

There is another $2.5 million pending for an energy-efficient rebate program for consumers to buy Energy Star appliances. The Energy Department says that 10 percent to 25 percent of the funding is expected to be spent on administration of the program.

The Recovery Act, when factoring in its other funding programs, has saved or created 5,700 jobs in Nevada as of Oct. 30, according to Recovery.gov, a federal Web site monitoring stimulus funding.

When compared to the rest of the states, Nevada comes in 32nd in jobs created or saved. California is listed at No. 1, with 110,200 jobs created or saved.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, speaking in Las Vegas, said she expects job creation to begin in earnest by February.

“It’s going to take us a little while, but we’re going to get there,” Solis said of stimulus-related job growth.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the U.S. is facing serious energy and climate challenges. The country, he said, needs to create its own opportunity and “lead in what will have to be the new industrial revolution.”

During a press conference announcing grants for geothermal projects, many of which are in Northern Nevada, Chu pointed to China, which is spending $9 billion a month on renewable energy development.

“The U.S. has the greatest innovation in the world,” Chu said. “The U.S. can take on this leadership role.”

The discovery, drilling and production of geothermal in the northern part of the state has received a cumulative $154.5 million.

Seventeen companies, educational agencies and tribes operating in Nevada were awarded $93 million to either find sources of geothermal heat or drill for it.

Stimulus money is also replacing some production or investment tax credits for geothermal companies with cash, about 30 percent of the cost of the facility. In Nevada, that amounts to $61.5 million.

“The value of these tax credits to investors who finance renewable energy projects has decreased,” the program plan explained.

The state has received $37.3 million to help homeowners and businesses make their homes and buildings energy efficient through weatherization.

So far Nevada has released $7.1 million for weatherization in Las Vegas but has yet to release the rest of the money, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

Danny Thompson said that he has 1,000 workers who don’t need to be retrained and could go to work immediately, if the state would release the funds.

The state’s energy conservation program received $34.7 million. Gov. Jim Gibbons, in a letter to Chu, said the state will use the money to better regulate utilities to ensure there are programs to help consumers save energy, create building permits to meet or exceed American and international energy conservation codes, and develop programs to expand energy efficiency in homes and businesses.

Another $32 million was awarded to the state for block grants to push energy efficiency in buildings and transportation, along with other improvements, according to the White House.

The state was also awarded $816,000 to hire more staff to manage increased energy regulations.

NV Energy was awarded a $138 million matching grant to deploy smart meters across the state for its electricity consumers in most of the state, and to a lesser degree, its natural gas customers in Reno.

Pending the approval of the Public Utilities Commission, the utility expects to start installing the smart meters in late 2010 following a short trial in selected neighborhoods.

Smart meters allow customers and utilities to monitor energy use during on and off peak hours, with the intention of encouraging consumers to use energy during the less costly off-peak hours.

In Reno, the National Science Foundation received $100,000 to discover a way to measure how much energy individual home appliances use when compared to the total gas and electricity consumed, allowing consumers to more closely monitor their energy use.

The smart meters that NV Energy plans to install in homes aren’t capable of individual appliance monitoring.

Nevada was also awarded $438,600 of $38 million available to prepare the state for an energy emergency, such as potential blackouts, vulnerabilities or other disruptions to energy supplies.

In Silver Peak, outside of Tonopah, German company Chemetall Foote received $11.4 million of $2.4 billion to expand and upgrade the production of lithium carbonate for hybrid and electric vehicle batteries. The company also received funding to support its lithium battery manufacturing in North Carolina.

The Treasury awarded $13.1 million in Nevada for renewable energy bonds to help lower financing costs for clean energy development, spread among the Las Vegas Valley’s three municipalities. Henderson was awarded bonds for hydroelectric and solar, and the cities of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas received bonds for solar.

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