President Barack Obama came to Las Vegas Monday to talk about renewable energy, and he started with a bit of advice for the crowd of about 1,000 cheering attendees.
“We’re all about saving energy here,” he said. “Sit down.”
Obama delivered the keynote address at the eighth annual National Clean Energy Summit, Sen. Harry Reid’s one-day event at at the Mandalay Bay events center which drew 700 attendees and another 300 volunteers, staff and speakers.
“For decades we’ve been told it doesn’t make economic sense to switch to renewable energy. Today that’s no longer true,” Obama said. “This is about the past versus the future.”
His almost 30-minute speech came on the heels of executive actions aimed at increasing green energy use — and solar power in particular — across the nation. They include $1 billion in additional federal loan guarantees for renewable projects and another $10 billion in loan guarantees for so-called distributed energy projects such as micro-power stations and rooftop solar arrays, according to White House advance materials.
The Department of Energy is also paving the way for states and state-affiliated “green banks” to loan money for green energy projects, while the Federal Housing Administration will provide FHA-backed loans to finance home energy projects.
“And we’re going to make it easier for individual homeowners to put solar panels on their roofs with no upfront costs,” Obama said.
The president began his speech by touting previous green energy initiatives launched by his administration to combat climate change, spur innovation and create jobs.
“Now is not the time to pull back on these investments,” he said, adding later, “I’m here to give you hope but not complacency.”
There has already been stiff resistance to Obama’s mounting push for renewable development, including the sweeping Clean Power Plan he unveiled earlier this year to reduce carbon emissions. Critics have dismissed the effort as a costly handout to an unproven industry that won’t be able to deliver on its promises.
But Obama said what he’s trying to do has the backing of scientists as well as economists, that it’s not just good for the planet but for people’s pocketbooks. “Solar isn’t just for the green crowd anymore; it’s for the green eye-shade crowd,” he said.
And he expects other nations to follow our example. “When we do smart things in America, it wakes up the rest of the world,” Obama said.
After the speech, Obama and Reid traveled to the Henderson home of Las Vegas Sun Publisher Brian Greenspun to speak at a fundraiser for former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat running for Reid’s Senate seat.
Obama was slated to spend the night in the valley and fly back to Washington, D.C., on Air Force One at just after 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Earlier Monday, Reid helped unveil a new 80-acre “community solar generation project” by Pahrump-based Valley Electric Association.
The 15-megawatt project, to be located at the north end of the Pahrump Valley about 80 miles west of Las Vegas, will create 200 jobs and an unspecified amount of new tax revenue, said Valley Electric CEO Tom Husted.
Company Executive Vice President of Energy Services Chris Brooks said those jobs will be temporary construction positions. He wasn’t sure how many permanent jobs the project might create.
Husted expects construction on the project to begin later this year and said it could start producing power by 2016.
Reid, speaking at the start of the summit, lauded the move and said he wasn’t satisfied with the current rooftop solar energy model used by NV Energy.
That company on Thursday announced it had hit a 235-megawatt statewide cap for net metering, which gives rooftop solar customers a credit for their excess electricity generated and delivered to the utility.
NV Energy has proposed a new rate structure that the The Alliance for Solar Choice says would devastate the industry.
“They’re using a model that was developed by Westinghouse and Edison in 1888,” Reid said of the company. “We have a new model. The world has changed, and they should change with it.”
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