50% Renewables Bill Passes NV Senate, Unanimously

The Nevada Senate voted April 16, 2019, unanimously, across party lines, to update Nevada’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), the law that sets the minimum amount of electricity that big Nevada electricity providers must get from clean, renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal. Nevada was once at the forefront of renewable energy policy: it was the fourth state to establish minimum renewable energy standards when it did so in 1997. But in recent years, Nevada has fallen behind. Senator Chris Brooks’ bill, Senate Bill 358, would once again make Nevada a national leader. It would update and reform the RPS so that, by 2030, 50 percent of Nevada’s electricity will come from clean, renewable energy.

The 458-megawatt Copper Mountain Solar 1 (at left), and 64-megawatt Nevada Solar One (at right) plants, south of Boulder City, Nevada, with the Las Vegas Strip in the background.

Credit: Michael Adams

NRDC and our partners have analyzed a 50 percent renewable energy future for Nevada from several perspectives. Here are our most important results: 

  • Enacting a 50 percent RPS like SB 358 could save ratepayers over $192 million over the next 20 years, when compared to a future where utilities rely more on gas-fired power plants to meet demand, according to an analysis commissioned by Western Resource Advocates and Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.
  • SB 358 would also spur economic development across the state, bringing in more than $539 million in wages, generating $1.5 billion in economic activity, and supporting an additional 11,170 clean energy jobs in 2030. We wrote a detailed overview of this study, commissioned by NRDC and completed by respected energy analysis firm ICF, here.
  • Nevada’s grid will run smoothly with 50 percent renewable energy, even with existing technologies, and even as other states go to 50 percent renewables, consultant ICF found in a technical analysis they completed of the interconnected Western electricity grid.
  • SB 358 would result in lower emissions of the carbon and smog-forming pollution that comes from burning dirty fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide emissions cause harmful climate change, and nitrogen oxides have serious effects on human health, especially for the most vulnerable Nevadans. In their two independent analyses, NRDC and WRA found that increasing the RPS to 50 percent provides critical benefits for public health and the environment by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide by 28 percent in 2030 and nitrogen oxides by 13 percent in 2030.

The price of renewable energy has been steadily declining as technology has improved. Since 2009, the cost of solar and wind energy has dropped by 88 percent and 69 percent, respectively. Since 2010, the cost of lithium-ion batteries has dropped by 79 percent, making it cheaper to store clean power for hours when the sun is down and the wind is calm. Additionally, solar, wind, and geothermal power plants, after they are built, have no fuel costs to worry about.

The local picture is even better. Nevada’s combination of the lowest average annual precipitation and large, sunny deserts make it the state with the most solar energy potential in the country, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Yet, Nevada spends $690 million a year to import out-of-state fossil fuels that could increase in price at any moment. No matter what economic theories you favor, that doesn’t make much sense. A strong RPS like the one proposed in SB 358 would help preserve Nevada’s air, water, and lands for future generations while also leveraging the state’s potential for solar energy to the benefit of Nevadans across the state. The bill now moves to the Nevada Assembly.

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