The measure mirrors a popular ballot initiative passed by voters in November
Conservationists and clean energy advocates celebrated Monday as Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a bill to more than double the amount of renewable energy currently provided by Nevada’s electric companies.
Senate Bill 358 was fast-tracked through the Democrat-dominated Legislature on Friday as an “emergency measure,” allowing Sisolak to sign it on Earth Day.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Chris Brooks, D-Las Vegas, requires state electric producers to buy or generate 50 percent of their power from solar, wind and other renewable power sources by 2030. It goes on to set a goal of zero carbon emissions from energy producers by 2050.
Only about 20 percent of electricity now generated in Nevada comes from renewables. A legislative effort aimed at bumping that total to 40 percent was vetoed last year by Gov. Brian Sandoval, inspiring a popular, billionaire-backed ballot measure that aimed to boost the state’s reliance on clean energy.
Sisolak — who earlier enlisted Nevada in a bipartisan, state-led push to meet environmental goals spelled out in the 2015 Paris Agreement — called SB 358 a “monumental” achievement for the state.
He said the bill could prove a boon for the state’s economy by generating up to 11,000 new jobs and an estimated $1 billion in new economic activity.
“Nevada is open for business as a renewable leader,” he told dozens of lobbyists and lawmakers gathered for a signing ceremony at the Capitol, “and our commitment to growing our clean energy economy will not falter or fade due to the political climate.”
Legislative leaders also applauded the measure’s job creation potential.
“The reality is we are creating jobs,” said Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas. “This is fiscally responsible policy making.
“The governor has signed what I think is one the greatest pieces of legislation that we’re going to be able to introduce this session.”
State Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, agreed the bill would support the creation of “all kinds of jobs” — from engineers and installers to factory and office workers.
Brooks, the bill’s sponsor, said it would keep billions of dollars in the Silver State that might have otherwise gone to pay for imported fossil fuels.
The green energy measure signed on Monday faced no such headwinds, breezing toward Sisolak’s desk with bipartisan support in both chambers of the statehouse.
It mostly mirrors Question 6, a ballot initiative overwhelmingly passed by voters in November. Backers of that proposed constitutional amendment now plan to stop campaigning for the initiative, which would’ve needed to survive another statewide vote in 2020 before becoming law.
Tom Steyer, the California billionaire and Democratic megadonor who sank more than $10 million into last year’s ballot push, said it was still money well spent.
“I think getting the people’s voice in this is an incredible thing,” Steyer told the Reno Gazette Journal. “That proposition was a statement about where Nevada stood. It was a statement to lawmakers and I think it was a statement around the country.”
NV Energy, by far the state’s largest power provider, praised SB 358 in a statement released shortly after it was signed.
“NV Energy has been vocal about our aspirational goal of providing our customers with 100 percent renewable energy, and this is an important next step in accomplishing that,” said Doug Cannon, the company’s president and CEO.
Legislators have until midnight Tuesday to advance several other clean energy initiatives introduced during Nevada’s hectic 120-day lawmaking session. That session is scheduled to wrap up on June 3.