FIT for discussion
Local group says feed-in tariffs could create green jobs and more clean energy
A group of Nevadans are trying to convince state legislators this week that paying residents for the renewable energy they produce would help create jobs and generate more clean energy in the state than current policies allow.
In anticipation of speaking on May 20 before Sen. Mike Schneider’s Interim Committee on the Production and Use of Energy, the group Feed-in Tariffs for Nevada (FIT4NV) held a workshop recently to educate citizens about FITs and how they, in turn, can advocate for them.
Basically, a renewable energy FIT would pay anyone who produces renewable energy—be they a single homeowner or a giant utility—a fixed rate, or tariff, that would take the form of real money, not energy credits. This sort of cash incentive could fuel the state’s renewable energy market, FIT4NV reasons. It could also focus renewable energy on already developed space in urban areas rather than developing in the middle of the desert.
It’s not an untested idea. Germany, with far less sunshine than the United States’ top solar producer, California, installs 15 times the solar energy of that state, said community organizer Bob Tregilus in his workshop presentation. The driving force: a feed-in tariff, which Germany has had since 1991.
For the past year, FIT4NV has been working to get a renewable energy FIT bill introduced in Nevada’s 2011 legislative session. While reducing carbon emissions is one obvious benefit, FIT4NV views renewable energy feed-in laws as a job-creation opportunity the state should seize—and fast.
“We use them primarily as economic development tools,” said Tregilus of feed-in laws, citing how manufacturers “swamped” Ontario, Canada, when it introduced its FIT policy in 2009.
In October 2009, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote the state senate, “I encourage the PUC to continue their work so that we can take advantage of the new renewable electricity capacity that a robust FIT program can provide.” Tregilus hopes Nevada can beat California to the punch.
“If California passes it first, we’re dead in the water,” he said. “All the manufacturing goes there.”
With a FIT, the energy wouldn’t be capped, as it is currently with NV Energy’s Renewable Generations rebate program. When the program’s most recent application period opened on April 21, it was full within six hours.
Though it could create jobs, a FIT policy may also eventually raise electricity rates, causing energy users to subsidize the growth of the clean energy industry. It could also cut into NV Energy’s profit margin, as the return on investment percentage would likely be lower than what the utility now receives, said Tregilus.
NV Energy spokesperson Karl Walquist said via email, “Feed-in tariffs have been historically implemented to encourage renewable energy development in states without portfolio standards and states that have little existing renewable development. Nevada’s existing track record in providing incentives for development of renewable generation compares favorably with any other state in the country.”