Nevada can show the nation how the carbon dioxide (CO2) emission limits in the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan (CPP) can be achieved, simply by being more efficient with the power it already produces.
Although the CPP is stalled in court at the moment, ironically in part because of a lawsuit supported by the Nevada Attorney General, the state can meet CPP goals by continuing on the clean energy path already laid by Governor Brian Sandoval.
The CPP calls for Nevada to achieve a 12.5 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030, but the state quite likely can achieve that goal years ahead of schedule, because of choices it already made to get off of coal and focus on clean energy.
The beneficiaries: everyone in the state. By using energy more wisely, Nevada can reduce the amount of electricity it needs to generate by 1 percent per year. According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, that 1 percent will:
- reduce CO2 emissions by 2.6 million tons per-year in 2030, about the annual emissions of a fleet of 500,000 cars
- eliminate the emissions of 27,000 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 16,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) by 2030.
- create new jobs in the building retrofit industries.
There also is a huge financial boost: by 2030, efficiency policies will save residents $466 million.
In a letter to Gov. Sandoval and 33 other governors around the country, the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental non-profits applauded the work Nevada has committed to and urged it to do more. Particularly, the state needs to commit to robust NV Energy-run energy efficiency programs. NV Energy's regulator, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, just cut two cost-effective programs that lowered the price of LED light bulbs and efficient pool pumps.
Aside from utility programs, "there are opportunities in Nevada to achieve significant emissions reductions through the implementation of non-utility administered energy efficiency policies and programs," the letter said in part. "Such programs include investments in combined heat and power generation, adoption of building energy codes that leverage above-code green building certification, residential retrofit financing programs, and procurement of energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) to upgrade large buildings and facilities."
Building on proven strategies
The CPP's emission reductions will be achieved in cooperation with local leaders and businesses.
Adam Procell, president and CEO of Lime Energy, one of the country's top energy efficiency contractors, states that energy efficiency is the easiest and cheapest way to reduce emissions, and methods already are available. The company's focus is the 28 million small businesses that need lower energy costs to improve their operations and put more dollars into the local economy. Lime Energy already has installed nearly 100,000 energy efficiency projects nationwide and saved small businesses more than $1 billion.
Energy efficiency has been saving money for American consumers and businesses for years. Research by Sustainable Energy in America shows the U.S. economy has grown by 10 percent since 2007 - but electricity use has been flat. At least part of the credit goes to the success of utilities' energy efficiency investments and the EPA's tightening of efficiency standards for appliances, equipment and buildings.
Nevada moving ahead
Even though Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt is attempting to halt implementation of the CPP, Gov. Sandoval is pressing forward with planning for the CPP, and has made expanding renewable energy a key part of the state's energy strategy.
Sandoval a few weeks ago issued a press release announcing the revived New Energy Industry Task Force: "There are few more critical issues to Nevada's future than clean and renewable energy. Not only does this sector drive many economic development opportunities, but it also helps us improve the quality of life for many Nevadans by helping keep our air clean, water fresh, and allows us to explore our unlimited potential in the wealth of renewables Nevada has to offer."
Nevada is continuing to plan for a clean energy future. Other states would be wise to follow Nevada's example.