Report: “Stalled” Energy Projects Costing Us

Business group says delays are costing thousands of jobs, billions in lost economic benefits

The US Chamber of Commerce says it’s taking too long to green-light energy projects — not just in California but across the US — and that it’s putting a drag on economic recovery.

Map shows energy projects that are facing permitting or court challenges, 31 in California. (Image: US Chamber of Commerce)

The pro-business group issued a report that attempts to quantify the opportunity cost of projects that were in permitting or litigation limbo during March of 2010. That “snapshot” includes 31 projects in California.

Authors of the report, entitled “Progress Denied,” say that using standard multipliers from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, the California projects alone could generate more than 142,000 jobs and yield a total benefit of $59.1 billion to the state’s total economy.

“We just have to get on with these kinds of things,” said Peter Morici, former chief economist at the US International Trade Commission and designated peer reviewer of the report. “We’re shooting ourselves in the foot.” Morici told reporters in a conference call that the large number of renewable energy projects on the list “Does indicate that you really can’t get involved in anything that the NIMBY movement, the no-growth movement, the zero-growth movement doesn’t get on your back.”

Steve Pociask of TeleNomic Research, who co-authored the report, said that nationwide, 45% of the projects on the limbo list were renewables.

Here’s the breakdown for California:
Projects awaiting groundbreaking: 31
Renewable Energy: 19, which includes:
Wind: 7
Solar: 7 (including one hybrid gas-solar project)
Geothermal: 1
Wave: 1
Biomass: 1

Renewable Fuels: 2

The list also includes five transmission projects, including the controversial Sunrise Powerlink in Southern California, and more than a half-dozen natural gas generating plants that are also in the permitting process. Although the Sunrise corridor has been approved, William Kovacs, who heads Environment, Technology and Regulatory Affairs for the Chamber, says “The permit has an enormous number of conditions and is still under litigation.” Kovacs said they counted any project that “was subject to a challenge.”

Just two days prior to release of the Chamber report, the federal Bureau of Land Management issued a list of nineteen “priority” renewable energy projects, eleven of which are in California, on federal lands managed by BLM. The list includes solar, wind and geothermal projects for generating electricity. To be eligible for the list, projects had to “minimize” environmental impacts and far enough along to “potentially” break ground by the end of this year.

  • Kim Williams

    I notice the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t mention the amount of renewable energy projects that were built in 2010. This Chamber of Commerce “report” is nothing more than another attempt by big business in their ongoing effort to erode environmental protection stopgaps such as the Endangered Species Act and the California Environmental Quality Act.

    Big energy is trying to maintain the monopoly they hold over our energy needs. In yet another private deal between corporations and government, ARRA funds (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) are being funneled into industrial utility-scale renewable energy projects that unnecessarily decimate our finite biological and agricultural resources. Government tells us these projects are critical for jobs creation yet they endorse project placement far from any urban centers where jobs are needed most.

    Government also has no problem with corporations spending ARRA funds (i.e. our tax dollars) primarily overseas, as in the case of Solargen Energy Inc., a start-up created to capitalize on government subsidies for corporate renewable energy companies. Solargen, who hopes to build the largest solar project in the world in California’s San Benito County, is in contract to purchase up to 4 million photo-voltaic solar panels from a Chinese manufacturer that just happens to also be Solargen’s major investor. In fact, Solargen has never developed a solar project of any size before nor has the Chinese manufacturer produced solar panels prior to the owner’s investment in Solargen. A profitable closed loop for the venture capitalists and Chinese investor who stand to benefit from the $360 million they qualify for in ARRA funds, but a bum deal for the American public. Added bonus = politicians get to say they’re helping to create jobs and Government can continue borrowing money from China.

    The only snag is established environmental and agricultural protection measures are actually doing what they were proposed to do and they’re protecting the public’s interest in these resources. Our public lands and agricultural areas are resources for all and not just there for exploitation at our expense. Of course big business hates the ESA and CEQA – corporationgs would make billions if given free reign to develop any and all land at will. Problem is, when you’re attention is only focused on the immediate bottom-line you don’t care what’s available for future generations. America’s ability to feed itself and biological diversity of the land? Not a corporation’s concern when there’s money to be made.

    As the industrial utility-scale renewable energy monstrosities are languishing in the permitting process because they violate such a plethora of environmental and agricultural protections, smaller distributed power (close to point-of-use) and rooftop systems are springing up left and right. As more get built it’s becoming glaringly apparent that Americans can and should follow the example of current world leaders in renewable energy production, Germany and Spain. These countries developed feed-in tariffs and offered subsidies direct to homeowners which spurred tremendous renewable energy growth AND put the power of energy production directly into the hands of the people.

    Ignore the corporate talking heads, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who work to maintain the corporate status quo. Question the government and corporate attempt to decimate public lands in the name of big energy. Give us the ARRA funds, let us use our tax dollars to purchase American-made solar panels to put on our homes. Government’s job is to work for the people. It can do that by requiring energy companies to purchase the excess energy produced with our rooftop systems at a fair market price, (some energy companies refuse to purchase the excess energy produced with rooftop systems and if they do they often pay pennies on the dollar).

    I’m looking forward to a future article highlighting the abuses of government and corporations and their efforts to erode our rights, this time in the name of “clean” energy. This takes the term “green-washing” to a whole new level.