This Earth Day in Carson City, Nevada was one to remember. At 2 pm on Monday, April 22, under blooming plums trees on the lawn between the Legislative Building and the State Capitol, where Governor Steve Sisolak has his offices, the Governor signed Senate Bill 358. The culmination of three years of work for NRDC, and even more for our partners in the state, including the bill’s sponsor and champion Senator Chris Brooks, SB 358 increases and reforms Nevada’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Now, after today’s signing ceremony, 50 percent of Nevada’s electricity will come from clean, renewable energy sources like solar, geothermal, and wind by 2030.
Surrounded by almost all 63 members of the legislature, Governor Sisolak celebrated the unanimous, bipartisan passage of the bill. Not a single legislator in the Senate or the Assembly voted against SB 358. Things were different in 2017, when then-Assemblyman Chris Brooks’ bill, Assembly Bill 206, which only had a 40-percent-by-2030 standard, passed the legislature on a party-line basis and was ultimately (and for me, painfully) vetoed by then Governor Brian Sandoval. But, in November 2018, Nevadans elected a new Governor, who in this year’s State of the State pledged to sign a 50 percent renewable energy standard when it arrived on his desk. In the same election, Nevadans voted by a 59-41 margin to approve Question 6, a ballot measure that would enshrine a 50 percent renewable energy standard in the Nevada Constitution. During the legislative session and before, Senator Brooks, through patient negotiation, was able to bring all stakeholders—rural utilities, gaming, unions, the state’s largest utility, and others—to a position of comfort with the bill.
NRDC and our partners have extensively analyzed the bill. It will, in short, be a boon to and diversify the Nevada economy, while reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants to conserve Nevada’s beauty for generations to come. Specifically:
- Enacting the 50 percent RPS in 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 green-collar 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.
When I thanked Assembly Minority Leader Jim Wheeler for his caucus’ support for the bill on Friday, he said, “A good bill is a good bill.” Nevadans across the political spectrum want to use the state’s own resources—solar, geothermal, existing and run-of-river hydro—to power the state, not out-of-state fossil fuels. They want their energy bills to support green-collar jobs here, not fossil fuel jobs in other states. Today, Governor Sisolak, Senate Majority Leader Cannizzaro, Assembly Speaker Frierson, Minority Leaders Settlemeyer and Wheeler, Senator Brooks, and all members of the Nevada Legislature helped secure a bright economic and environmental future for the Silver State. This is the one Earth Day I will remember forever.