Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 | 2 a.m.
A smiling Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., walked with Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., through exhibitor booths touting solar power, electric cars and clean energy think tanks.
Democratic Treasurer Kate Marshall stood nearby, and Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., made an appearance. This wasn’t a fundraiser for Democrats — although two fundraisers for Reid, Horsford and Democratic congressional candidate Erin Bilbray were held at the same location — but it was clear that the National Clean Energy Summit at Mandalay Bay on Tuesday was Reid’s energy extravaganza.
Reid was even on hand to set the stage in July with an announcement that Mandalay Bay is planning to install a huge rooftop solar array on the very convention center that hosted Tuesday’s conference.
During the daylong event, speakers touted ways to meet policy goals that would spur investments in renewable energy, improve the electrical grid, reduce costs for consumers, and curb climate change.
“This is smart people onstage saying smart things,” said Chris Brooks, owner of Bombard Electric, a renewable energy company and exhibitor at the conference.
While several federal government officials spoke at the event, Brooks said the impression he took away from the speakers is that states, cities, counties and businesses need to lead the way in addressing climate change and promoting renewable energy industries.
Reid echoed those statements.
“States are leading the charge in investing in clean energy,” Reid said. “What we’re trying to do is find a way to energize tomorrow.”
The event brought together policymakers from across the country.
Among the speakers was California’s former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a crowd favorite who quipped that people should “use your Hummer, but have an electric engine.”
But the top speakers had a few distractions from the conference.
A federal court decision Tuesday morning reopened the possibility of creating a Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, meaning Reid and the federal energy chief had to address that decision.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz also met with Titus, Reid and Gov. Brian Sandoval about a controversial shipment of nuclear waste that would be transferred from Tennessee to the Nevada National Security Site north of Las Vegas.
Democrats also decided to cash in on the plethora of sympathetic supporters in the audience. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hosted a fundraiser down the hall from the conference for Horsford and Bilbray, who is challenging Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., in Southern Nevada’s Congressional District 3.
Reid also took a break from the conference to host a campaign fundraiser at lunch in a restaurant at Mandalay Bay.
Pat Mulroy, director of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, spoke at the conference but also had other things on her mind. Namely, Lake Mead could be running out of water.
She expects the federal Bureau of Reclamation to release a report this week that will determine how much water flows from Lake Powell down to Lake Mead.
Less water means lower water levels in Lake Mead, which means an increased likelihood that the lake level will dip below the second intake pipe before the third deeper pipe is complete.
She called it an “emergency” situation that results from the lengthy drought along the Colorado River.
“I’m totally braced for bad news,” she said.
Sajjad Ahmad, a professor at UNLV who studies climate change and hydrology, said demand for water exceeds supply, meaning this situation will likely get worse before it gets better.
“This issue will only get more and more serious with time,” he said.
But on the renewable energy side, Ahmad echoed other speakers in noting incremental changes to the nation’s energy sector.
Reid struck a positive note as he called the conference to a close Tuesday evening.
“We have to work on this, and we have to do it together,” he said before exiting the stage to the tunes from the Huey Lewis and the News song “Power of Love.”