Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How Green Energy Can Fuel Economic Recovery

With the U.S. economy continuing to suffer through a serious economic slowdown and unemployment reaching 7.2 percent nationwide (9.1 in Nevada), there is no better time for green energy — specifically measures already passed by Congress — to become a priority in helping fuel economy recovery.

Just one of these measures, the funding of Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) Section 471, could create up to 7,000 jobs by the end of 2010. In fact, according to the International District Energy Association (IDEA), job creation could start immediately by focusing efforts on "shovel-ready" projects. IDEA has compiled some 62 member projects that are ready to start in 28 states.

Funding EISA Section 471 creates jobs and sustainable benefits.

• It provides near-term economic stimulus, designing and building new clean energy infrastructure.
• It stimulates local economies in the long term by encouraging investments in local energy supplies and sources.
• It reduces costs at public institutions by cutting energy consumption and reducing emissions.
• It stimulates private investment in green infrastructure, providing near-term and long-term benefits.
• It achieves critical environmental and energy goals by reducing demand on local power supplies.

Along with funding EISA Section 471, IDEA recently released green economic stimulus recommendations as part of its energy and environmental policy for the new administration. These recommendations work because they increase economic productivity, result in labor intensive jobs, and reduce the exportation of stimulus dollars. Some highlights from the full brief:

• Loans and Grants for Institutions. The appropriation of $750 million annually for five years has already been authorized for implementing or improving sustainable energy infrastructure, which benefits institutions of higher education, local governments, municipal utilities, and public school districts.

• Waste Energy Recovery Incentives. Sections 451-453 of EISA draw additional attention to the recovery of industrial waste heat so it can be recycled into usable heat and electricity. The provision establishes waste energy recovery grants.

• CHP Investment Tax Credit. The current CHP investment tax credit (ITC) under Section 48 of the Internal Revenue Service Code only makes eligible the first 15 MW of capacity. Increasing the cap to 50 MW would encourage the implementation of many projects that could quickly result in efficiency increases and reduced emissions.

• Tax-Exempt Financing. Currently, the IRS Code allows tax-exempt bonds to be used for “local district heating and cooling facilities.” However, the interpretation needs to include plant facilities, which would encourage the implementation of job-producing, low-carbon energy systems such as thermal energy production equipment.

• Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS). While the definition of ‘renewable’ varies dramatically from state to state, it generally focuses on solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal energy. IDEA recommends EERS include CHP and other forms of waste energy and waste heat recovery to be included within the definition.

Benz Air Engineering Co. specializes in custom-engineered solutions, combining expertise in various distributed control systems and programmable logic controllers for the implementation of energy efficiency projects. More than 230 boilers have been retrofitted throughout the country by Benz Air, typically providing a return on investment in approximately one year.

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