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2017 Issue Spotlight - Renewable Energy

Over the past 20 years, Nevada has developed a reputation as a clean energy leader. We were an early adopter of a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), hosted the National Clean Energy Summit and enjoyed strong solar, geothermal and wind resources, with very little fossil fuel. In recent years, the state has fallen behind as other states have increased their goals. Oregon, Washington, California & Colorado now all have higher renewable energy standards while Nevada hasn’t seen an increase since 2009.

It was against this backdrop that Assemblyman Chris Brooks introduced AB 206. As written, the bill would have increased our existing RPS to 50% by 2040, with a goal of getting to 80% by 2050. In a world where some states were going all the way to 100% clean energy, this seemed like a reasonable goal to maintain Nevada’s place as a clean energy leader. The bill was forward-thinking, with provisions that could survive a transition to open markets and enjoyed wide support from Nevadans across the state.

Opposition was slow to develop to this bill, but when it did, they employed every discredited “fact” they could think of. Opponents claimed that increasing renewable energy would cause Nevadans energy bills to skyrocket, even though NV Energy recently signed solar contracts for the lowest price in the country, for any technology. They claimed that grid reliability would be impacted, even though study after study showed that this was not true. Finally, they claimed that an RPS was incompatible with energy choice, even though every other open market in the nation also has an RPS.

Despite these objections (and other below the belt tricks), Assemblyman Brooks along with the Nevada Conservation League and our partners worked with opponents and worked on policy fixes for their concerns. Concepts were added to the bill that addressed the unique nature of co-ops and municipal systems, and that gave extra weight to storage systems and baseload geothermal. In a further compromise, the overall goal of 80% was dropped from the bill and the requirement was adjusted to 40% by 2030. Despite these efforts, opponents were un-swayed and ultimately, the bill was vetoed by Governor Sandoval.

While there is no doubt that this veto was a tough pill to swallow, our coalition is determined to return to the 2019 session and win this battle. If Nevada is to be a regional and national clean energy leader, we can’t be middle of the pack when it comes to our renewable goals – and if we are going to make sure that the new open markets of the future utilize clean Nevada-made energy, we have to have aggressive standards that make sure that we send less money out of state and create jobs and economic development right here in Nevada. The old Nevada may have won in 2017, but the New Nevada will ultimately prevail.