Guest Blog: Congresswoman Dina Titus
Nevada is fulfilling its potential to become a center for renewable energy production in the West. But that progress is in jeopardy unless Congress acts to maintain incentives for renewable energy development. As we observe Earth Day in April, we need to press Congress to act now to preserve the jobs created and the environmental progress we have made over the past decade.
Nevada’s renewable energy industry is among the fastest-growing in the nation. We lead the nation in jobs created per capita in the solar industry and are second in the nation in energy produced from geothermal. There were 3,500 jobs created in Nevada’s solar industry in 2014, a 146 percent increase in a year. More jobs were created in Nevada than in any other state except California. With 106 solar companies employing 5,900 people in our state, the independent nonprofit Solar Foundation now ranks Nevada seventh in the nation in total jobs in the solar industry. Nevada has long been a leader in geothermal development, and we now have 20 geothermal plants capable of generating more than 425 megawatts of clean power, second only to California.
This is the kind of progress I have been waiting to see since the 1990s, when I was a Nevada state senator introducing bills to create a renewable energy portfolio standard and to give homeowners incentives to install rooftop solar systems and put clean energy into the grid through net metering. Now, I am fearful this progress may come to a halt if we do not renew critical federal tax credits for both the solar and geothermal industries.
The 30 percent solar credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in income taxes for homeowners installing rooftop solar systems and companies building solar generation plants. Unless Congress acts, this credit will be reduced to 10 percent on Jan. 1, 2017. This may seem like a long way off, but solar companies soon will have difficulty attracting capital for planned projects without the credit being assured. As the Solar Energy Industries Association says, “The ITC is set to expire at the end of 2016, but the investment will slow long before the credit expires.”
Likewise, tax credits for equipment at geothermal plants have been reduced. Geothermal plants were eligible for a 2.3-cent per kilowatt hour production tax credit through 2014, but the U.S. Senate voted in January 2015 not to extend the credit. House Republican leadership has made no indication of taking up a PTC extension. But we should be moving in the opposite direction.
We also need to do more to level the playing field for renewable energy projects on public lands. I am a co-sponsor of H.R. 596, the Public Lands and Renewable Energy Act of 2013, which is bipartisan legislation that would create a competitive leasing program for renewable projects on public lands similar to current oil and gas leases. The legislation would also invest a share of royalties from renewable projects in the protection of wildlife habitats. This is common-sense legislation that would promote renewable energy development on the large expanses of federal lands in Nevada while protecting our environment.
Congress has been consumed with the debate over the Keystone pipeline while measures to strengthen development of our renewable resources have been shunted aside. The case for renewable energy, however, is as important now as it has ever been, if not more so. Developing renewable energy is not only the morally right thing to do but also the economically wise course of action to take. We need the good-paying jobs. We need to reverse the effects of climate change by further reducing our carbon consumption. We need to minimize dependence on foreign oil to better protect our national security. And we need to protect the planet for future generations. This is good for Nevada and good for the United States.
-By Congresswoman Dina Titus
Nevada, Congressional District 1