Solar energy debated

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(AP) " Lawmakers were told Monday the solar energy industry will have a major impact on Nevada's economy, assuming that tax abatements are offered to attract such companies to the state.

Industry-sponsored studies show that current tax abatement polices set to expire in June should be continued and enhanced, which would make Nevada "by a small margin" more competitive in Arizona and California in attracting solar energy developers, said Mike Alastuey, representing Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis.

Alastuey said SB331 would cut property taxes imposed on solar energy generating facilities by 75 percent for 25 years, and would abate local school support taxes imposed on property used in construction or operation of such facilities by 75 percent for 10 years. Other taxes for education wouldn't be cut.

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, questioned the number of long-term jobs that the solar energy industry would create and called the tax revenue lost under the bill "substantial." "There's little left at the end in terms of employment and economic activity that is being generated, yet we still have the burden of a long-term tax incentive that we gave away," Conklin added.

Alastuey said the potential economic gain from solar energy activity offsets the cost of basic government services needed because of the initial influx of power plant construction workers.

Another industry study showed that solar energy development over the next seven years could create close to 6,000 construction jobs per year, 1,200 full-time plant operation jobs and close to $11 billion in the generation of goods and services, said Jim Baak of Vote Solar, a nonprofit solar advocacy group.

Baak added that $500 million in sales and property taxes would be paid to the state over the life of solar energy projects if tax abatements are approved.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, asked Baak what work skills would be needed for the solar energy jobs the industry would create. Horsford's "green jobs" initiative, SB152 would use federal stimulus money to create renewable energy jobs.

Horsford said the presentations were the start of discussions with renewable energy representatives, whose input is valuable in helping lawmakers create a green economy.

"We're here to work together, along with our governor, to establish the best public policy on renewable energy that we can," Horsford said, referring to Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Another renewable energy bill, AB522, would tax solar, wind and other clean energy produced in the state. It would extend upfront tax breaks for building renewable energy plants in Nevada, and new revenue would fund a renewable energy commission, energy-efficiency rebates and a program to help Nevada customers with power bills.

Critics of the proposal have asked why lawmakers would tax the clean energy they are trying to promote instead of the pollution-creating energy they want to replace.


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