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April 26, 2017

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EPA’s Clean Power Plan will bring more jobs, investment to Nevada

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released Monday its final carbon pollution reduction rule for existing power plants, commonly known as the Clean Power Plan. It allows each state to develop its own policy and approach to comply with the rule’s state-specific mandate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, possibly at the urging of the coal industry that has put McConnell at the top of its contribution list, has urged state governors to ignore the rule and refuse to submit state plans. In Nevada, we don’t need to worry about Gov. Brian Sandoval heeding such a regressive call to derail Nevada’s clean energy policy and economy. He and other state leaders continue to be ahead of the EPA on working to reduce Nevada’s carbon pollution, decreasing our dependence on out-of-state fossil fuels and helping build a thriving industry around homegrown renewable resources.

This vision and bipartisan commitment from our leaders in developing Nevada’s clean energy policies and economy have worked. Nevada is a national leader on myriad renewable energy fronts, and our economy has benefited as a result. Nevada’s implementation of its own clean power plan will ensure the state's economy continues to grow and that it will continue to lead in renewable energy development.

Through a bipartisan effort in 2013, the Nevada Legislature passed and Sandoval signed into law SB 123, effectively eliminating coal-fired power plants from Nevada’s energy mix. Nevada had already started taking advantage of its climate and location as it instituted a robust renewable portfolio standard in 1997. Nevada’s boundless solar and geothermal resources, with additional development potential for wind and biomass resources, have been an increasingly important part of our state’s energy mix and economy.

Today, even before the plan goes into full force, Nevadans use these homegrown renewable resources to power our homes and businesses. Additionally, our state is uniquely positioned not only to comply with the final rule, but also to propel itself into a role as the West’s leading renewable energy exporter. We will continue to define our regional energy market as Nevada helps other states meet their carbon pollution reduction and renewable energy usage goals.

In addition, our state leaders’ clean-energy investment policies have a return on investment of more than 10-to-1. Nevada’s renewable and energy-efficiency sector already has seen more than $5.5 billion in investment since 2010, and the state has nearly 22,000 employed in green jobs, making clean energy one of the fastest growing industries in the state. Nevada ranks among the top in the nation in nearly every solar job creation, generation and development category.

These top solar rankings are mirrored by the geothermal industry in Northern Nevada. In fact, the state’s geothermal development and research leadership potential was recently awarded one of five spots in the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) project. And Nevada has other clean energy opportunities, as well, including wind generation and biomass development. Renewable power development is easily one of our state’s strongest areas of economic opportunity, as noted in the governor’s list of key industries in the Office of Economic Development. This sector can and will attract even more jobs and investment as we develop and implement Nevada’s Clean Power Plan.

Also noteworthy, renewable energy and technologies have become increasingly more innovative and cost effective over the past 20 years — so much so that in-state solar generation is directly cost competitive with coal and natural gas. In fact, NV Energy recently entered into a power purchase agreement with First Solar for 3.87 cents per kilowatt-hour, making it the least expensive utility-purchased electricity in the nation. That price is far less expensive than coal or natural gas and far less polluting. This should not come as a surprise, as solar generation costs have dropped 70 percent since 2008.

Furthermore, the Energy Information Administration has reported that geothermal generation is expected to be the least expensive of all electricity sources by 2019. Nevada ranks among the top states for both solar and geothermal potential, which means Nevada is set to become a major exporter of affordable, reliable renewable energy.

Nevadans have become increasingly aware of these facts and support our leaders in the development of clean energy policies. The Clean Energy Project recently commissioned a poll by the Tarrance Group, a Republican pollster, which made it clear that Nevadans want more renewable energy. Seventy-five percent of likely voters, both Democrats and Republicans, said they supported Nevada helping to develop renewable energy. Nearly as many, 73 percent, said our state didn’t rely enough on renewable energy. In fact, nearly 3 out of every 4 Nevadans support the state’s goal of curbing carbon pollution by 30 percent or more by 2030, mirroring the goals of the EPA’s final rule.

With continued strong leadership from Sandoval and our state agencies aggressively developing a Nevada Clean Power Plan, Nevada is well positioned to continue its national leadership in clean and renewable energy development. A strong, renewables-focused state compliance plan will help stabilize and ultimately lower our electricity rates, create jobs and encourage new in-state investment — all while helping to improve our health and environment.

Jennifer Taylor is executive director of the Clean Energy Project, a Nevada-based nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to powering the clean-energy economy through education and engagement with policy leaders, community leaders and residents.

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