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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Yes, $11 million per job is possible, and a record

I posted on August 29 that it appeared that Sempra Energy had received $55 million in federal tax credits and Nevada incentives for a solar generation facility in Boulder City, Nevada, to just create five jobs. I wondered if this were even possible.

In the course of working to update a table of the largest incentives in the U.S. for an academic article, my research assistant found a website of Department of Energy loan and loan guarantee programs that shows how many jobs each recipient was expected to create. It turns out that solar generator Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, Inc., which received a $45.6 million loan guarantee, will create just four jobs. Granite Reliable's wind generation facility, which received a $135.8 million loan guarantee, will create just six jobs. Note that a loan guarantee does not have a subsidy value equal to its face value, but much less: essentially it is equivalent to what it would cost to obtain such a guarantee on the open market, but that is difficult to determine. I will not attempt this calculation here.

But these figures show that Sempra could indeed just create just five jobs for its Copper Mountain solar generation project, especially since it was adjacent to an existing facility. Thus, it appears that Sempra's subsidy package really does come to $11 million per job. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time a project has cracked $10 million per job. Obviously, energy is the point of this subsidy, not jobs, but it is still an amazing number. Using a different measure called aid intensity, we find that the subsidy equaled 39% of the $141 million cost of the facility. That is a high intensity, but hardly off the charts. A comparison with aid intensities in the European Union would be useful, and I hope to be able to do that soon.

Update: Sempra Energy, the recipient of this subsidy, has one campaign contribution show up on the Open Secrets website for the 2008, 2010, or 2012 election cycles: $2500 to the San Diego County Republican Central Committee . Nevada Governor Sandoval was there for the ribbon cutting, since Nevada state and local governments contributed $12 million in subsidies for this project.

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