U.S. National Clean Energy Summit Generates Fresh Ideas

LAS VEGAS, Nevada, August 20, 2008 (ENS) – Windfarms offshore of New York City, wind turbines on top of the city’s bridges and skyscrapers, and the generation of tidal power, solar power and geothermal energy are all in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s vision of New York’s energy future.

Speaking at the first annual National Clean Energy Summit hosted by U.S. Senator Harry Reid, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, the mayor Tuesday announced New York’s first steps toward developing these new sources of renewable energy.

First, the New York City Economic Development Corporation Tuesday released a Request for Expressions of Interest calling for innovative ideas to help the city develop sources of renewable energy. Responses to the RFEI are due September 19.

“Such projects might, for example, be designed to draw power from the tides of the Hudson and East Rivers – something we’re already doing on a pilot basis, Mayor Bloomberg told summit participants.

“They might call for dramatically increasing rooftop solar power production, which we’ve estimated could meet nearly 20 percent of the city’s need for electricity.”

“They could tap into geothermal energy. In fact, some private home and building owners have already drilled their own heat wells,” Bloomberg said.

“Or perhaps companies will want to put windfarms atop our bridges and skyscrapers, or use the enormous potential of powerful off-shore winds miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, where turbines could generate roughly twice the energy that land-based windfarms can,” the mayor said. “Windfarms located far off our shores, some evidence shows, could meet 10 percent of our city’s electricity needs within a decade.”

“More than 100 years ago, a new statue standing tall in New York Harbor gave our nation its greatest symbol of freedom. In this century, that freedom is being undermined by dependence on foreign oil. So I think it would be a thing of beauty if, when Lady Liberty looks out on the horizon, she not only welcomes new immigrants, but lights their way with a torch powered by an ocean windfarm,” said the mayor.

U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada,
left, and New York Mayor Michael
Bloomberg at the National Clean
Energy Summit. August 19, 2008
(Photo courtesy Office of the Mayor)

“Right now, I can’t tell you exactly what any such projects might look like. But I can tell you this: In New York, we don’t think of alternative power as something that we just import from other parts of the nation. America’s energy efficiency and energy security are our business, too. So when it comes to producing clean power, we’re determined to make New York the number one city in the nation.

Keynote speaker oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens advanced his plan to develop America’s wind energy potential and use the natural gas supplies this frees up to power American cars and trucks.

Pickens has made his fortune in the oilfields but has now become a convert to renewables. He says all Americans can participate in generating clean energy no matter where they live.

Pickens told reporters how he replied to a person from Maine who felt it to be unfair that renewable energy development is taking place in the sunny Southwest.

“I said, we feel disadvantaged because we don’t have the waves that you have in Maine to create energy; we feel disadvantaged because we don’t have the wind that you have off the coast of Maine,” Pickens answered. “Renewable energy is not in special locality in the United States. Every place in America can do well with renewables. There are farmers in the Midwest who are making more money as we speak generating electricity with their windmills than they are growing soybeans and other crops.”

In his keynote speech, former President Bill Clinton advanced a new idea – the creation of energy independent areas that would rely on renewables, efficiency, and home grown energy.

These places would prove to the rest of the world that energy independence built on clean energy can occur, and would lead to economic growth.

Clinton suggested that energy independent areas would work well in many places – Caribbean nations, Liberia and Rwanda, East Timor and Papua New Guinea, Puerto Rico, which currently imports 100 percent of its energy, Native American reservations without gaming income, the Mississippi River Delta and Appalachia, and the state of Nevada.

By suggesting Nevada, Clinton hit on one of the main reasons that Nevada Senator Reid, a Nevada Democrat who serves as Senate majority leader, decided to host the National Clean Energy Summit – to open up more opportunities for Nevada.

Reid told summit participants, “The sun shines here all the time. The wind blows much of the time, and we’re one of the few states that has massive amounts of geothermal energy. That’s why I refer to Nevada as the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy. Tax incentives and upgraded transmission capacity could make the goals set forth for Nevada a reality.”

Clinton said Nevada could create a public-private partnership for renewables and export renewables to the rest of the country, a suggestion that Reid is considering.

Reid emphasized that offshore drilling would not solve anything. “Everyone knows that drilling is not going to solve our energy problems. T. Boone Pickens has said that, everybody says that. John McCain has said it’s psychological, the drilling is not acutally going to help.”

“So we’re going to try to move off that and give people a vote on it, then I hope we can move on to something else,” said the Senate majority leader.

The summit drafted a set of findings and recommendations that Reid said he would share with the two upcoming national political conventions and also take to the Senate.

National Clean Energy Summit 2008 Findings and Recommendations:

The Federal government should:

* Provide long-term tax incentives for renewable energy production and energy efficiency, including clean renewable energy bonds. Modify other tax policies to reward clean energy investments

* Set a national renewable electricity standard for utilities to produce a significant portion of their electricity from wind, solar, and geothermal energy. This should be at least 20 percent by 2020. It would reduce consumers’ energy costs, energy price volatility and greenhouse gas emissions

* Establish, enforce and update building code standards for energy efficiency in new and retrofitted buildings to save consumers money and reduce fossil fuel use. Provide incentives for efficiency related renovations Reduce building energy use by 50 percent by 2030.

* Put a price on carbon pollution, through a cap-and-trade program or other means

* Modernize and expand the nation’s electrical grid to make it smart and more secure, and capable of transferring or storing clean renewable energy in combination with electric vehicles, while providing greater access to such resources in an environmentally responsible way

* Help fund the transition of states, like Nevada, or small countries around the world to be completely energy independent and carbon neutral to serve as an example of how these goals can be achieved

* Act swiftly to increase the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks, and increase funding for private-public partnerships to build a transportation sector that uses far less or no oil

* Buy, and give significant incentives to consumers and small businesses to buy, clean alternative fuel and plug-in hybrid vehicles. This should include natural gas fleet vehicles.

* Initiate electrification of our entire transportation sector so it uses only clean domestic energy soon

* Fully fund and expand a green jobs/clean energy corps program to weatherize millions of homes, train workers for new energy technology application, build a smart grid, etc.

* Provide incentives to states to decouple utility profits from electricity sales to encourage significant new investments in energy efficiency, and ensure net metering and time of use pricing/real time information is available

* Create a federal clean energy fund to invest in research, development and deployment of efficiency and renewable technologies

* Encourage or direct utilities to organize the retrofitting of existing buildings

* Expedite identification and reservation of Federal public lands that have high potential for the environmentally responsible production of renewable electricity, and improving permitting processes for clean energy production on such lands

* Vastly increase the budget for clean energy research, development and deployment, including greater emphasis on commercializing research funded by taxpayers

* Greatly increase investments in public transit to make it more affordable and accessible

* Fully fund and expand LIHEAP, low income weatherization and Energy and Environmental Block Grant programs

* Reduce federal government energy consumption by half within the next 15 years, using procurement power to buy green products, buildings and services

* Fund research into carbon capture and storage technology that can dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal fired power plants

* Speed the transition from corn based ethanol to sustainable biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol made from wood chips, agriculture waste, and switch grass. This could include a joint US-Brazilian investment in sugar cane ethanol in the Caribbean, which would create jobs in this developing region.

* Convert solid waste landfills so that they produce waste heat, biofuels or fertilizer from methane emissions or organic materials.

* Establish programs to promote exports of domestically-made clean energy technology products. Assist China and India and other developing nations with their adoption of clean energy practices and technologies.

The State of Nevada Should Consider Policies to:

* Require all new government buildings to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council to LEED standards. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

* Convert state vehicle fleets to alternative fuels

* Create incentives for renewable energy by lowering property taxes for these facilities, and exempting them from sales tax.

* Require that homeowner associations allow solar panels and other renewable technologies.

* Eliminate barriers and regulations that discourage energy efficiency. Increase transparency of commercial building energy use for consumers.

View This Story On Eco–mmunity Map.