By Assemblyman Tom Roberts
You may not read about it every day in the news, but we are living through an energy revolution, both nationally and right here in Nevada. Game-changing technological breakthroughs have fundamentally changed the economics of conventional and renewable energy sources in our country. We are no longer beholden to hostile foreign regimes for the energy that supports our way of life.
Whether it’s solar, wind, geothermal, oil or natural gas – America is producing it better, cleaner and more affordably than any other nation. Just as importantly, new technologies are allowing individual states to fully harness their own resources instead of relying on their neighbors to produce energy for them.
This is why Nevada lawmakers are unanimously supporting an ambitious – yet realistic – plan to obtain 50 percent of our state’s energy from solar, geothermal, hydroelectric and wind-powered sources by 2030. The bill, SB 358, passed 40-0 in the state Assembly and 21-0 in the state Senate last month before it was signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak.
As Republican legislators, we felt it was important to support this measure for a number of reasons.
We heard the voters when they supported Question 6 – which would create a constitutional mandate of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 – last year. Under Nevada law, Question 6 would have to pass again in 2020 to be formally approved as a constitutional amendment.
But we don’t believe renewable energy targets belong in the Nevada Constitution. That would make the targets rigid, inflexible and very difficult to change. Instead, by approving SB 358, the legislature is attracting clean energy investment with a policy that is smart, focused and able to be adjusted over time based on market conditions.
Expanding our clean energy sector in Nevada is essential because it makes the most of our state’s resources, supporting job growth and capital investment. The potential is huge, because roughly 87 percent of the energy we use in Nevada isn’t produced here, according to 2016 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Finding cost-effective ways to produce more energy locally is both common sense and pro-growth.
We already have a strong foundation to build on. More than 20 percent of Nevada’s electricity comes from renewable sources today, and according to the EIA, we are the second largest state for geothermal energy and the fourth largest in utility-scale solar energy.
In fact, existing renewable energy facilities in Nevada have contributed $7.9 billion in economic activity, more than 12,000 jobs and more than $150 million in state and local taxes since 2006, according to a study commissioned by the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and The Western Way, a conservative think tank that promotes efficient, pro-market solutions to environmental challenges.
Another factor in our favor: Nevada’s power grid is much more flexible than those of other states, which makes it easier to integrate renewable sources that depend on the sun shining and the wind blowing.
Most of our electricity comes from natural gas-fired power plants, which can rapidly adjust their output down and back up again to accommodate solar and wind. Nevada also has an excellent storage solution for renewable energy: Hydroelectric dams. When solar panels and wind turbines are generating more electricity than the grid needs at certain times of day, we can use that extra power to pump water back into those dams for later use – ensuring that clean energy is available around the clock.
Those natural gas and hydroelectric plants will give our state the flexibility we need to harness our massive renewable potential – especially solar – while large-scale batteries and other storage technologies become cheaper and more widely available.
Harnessing Nevada’s rich renewable resources is also the cost-effective move. According to Navigant Research, the unsubsidized cost of utility scale solar power plummeted by 88 percent since 2010. That means new solar can meet or beat the price of new natural gas generation.
The business case for expanding Nevada’s renewable energy sector could not be clearer, and as Republican lawmakers, we will stay engaged to ensure SB 358 is implemented in a flexible, pro-growth and pro-jobs manner. Energy policy is too important for conservatives to stay on the sidelines.