WASHINGTON — Sen. Harry Reid on Monday defended the economic impact of renewable energy in Nevada, saying projects have created “thousands and thousands and thousands of jobs” even if many are short-term.
Reid said skepticism about the job benefits of renewables “is just so outlandish.”
He compared building a power project to building a highway: lots of jobs to construct one, then a smaller number to keep them in working condition.
The Nevada Democrat cited the Copper Mountain complex off Railroad Pass outside Boulder City, where 775,000 solar panels went online in 2010. An estimated 350 construction jobs were created, while only a handful were required permanently.
“That’s taken lots and lots of work to get those up,” Reid said of the Copper Mountain arrays. Also, “go out to Stateline by Primm to see the jobs out there that are still ongoing” at the First Solar projects. He added: “Drive up to Ely sometime to see the windmills.”
“When you create a power plant whether it is solar, geothermal, wind, biodiesel, biofuels, the construction jobs are where the big jobs are,” Reid said “And after they are completed, you have the jobs to keep them running, just like a highway.”
As the government was distributing more than $14 billion in grants and loan guarantees to renewable energy projects between 2007 and 2010 in a bid to jump-start the industry during the recession, some critics questioned whether the industry was creating enough sustainable jobs to justify the subsidies.
A study updated in 2013 by the American Council on Renewable Energy counted 21,861 jobs in Nevada attributed to “green goods and services,” a Bureau of Labor Statistics category that counts jobs in businesses “that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.”
Reid commented during a call with reporters to promote the seventh annual Clean Energy Summit being held Sept. 4 at Mandalay Bay. He was joined by Jim Murren, chairman of MGM Resorts International, which is a conference sponsor and which operates Mandalay Bay.
Former Secretary of State and U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the conference.
Reid on Monday announced a panel discussion on climate change and business will feature Murren, former U.S. Ambassador to China and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, and former federal housing secretary and San Antonio, Texas Mayor Henry Cisneros.
Reid held up MGM Resorts as a company where “it is not incompatible to be concerned about the environment and having a good business model to go along with it.” The City Center complex has been dubbed the largest green project in North America, and the company is including rooftop solar in its $375 million arena project that broke ground off the Strip in May.
“MGM determined long ago it needed to be a more careful steward of our environment.” Murren said. “We have decided as a company many years ago we would invest literally now billions of dollars in clean energy.
“There is a dimension of altruism to it… but we have learned this is good business sense,” Murren said. “People will book conventions at Aria and Mandalay and Bellagio because they share the same core values as we do.”
Contact Steve Tetreault at email@example.com or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC.