Monday, Aug. 24, 2015 | 10:25 a.m.
Sen. Harry Reid compared the Nevada’s power infrastructure to a “Model T Ford” in opening remarks at today’s Clean Energy Summit at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
The Democratic minority leader advocated for new investments in solar energy and other forms of clean power, distributed storage and energy efficiency.
“It is clear that distributed energy, energy storage, and other sources of electricity and efficiency are competing with utility-scale power plants – as they should,” said Reid, D-Nev.
Speakers at the summit include President Barack Obama, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Congressperson Dina Titus and President of NV Energy Paul Caudill.
Reid’s remarks come amid ongoing controversy over solar power generation in the state. A regulatory cap that limits the number of new customers who receive incentives for installing solar panels on their homes was reached last week, months earlier than expected. Uncertainty over the program, known as net metering, has led at least one major solar company to pause its growth in Nevada until the Public Utilities Commission can issue new regulations.
Here’s the full text of Reid’s comments:
The theme for this year’s National Clean Energy Summit is “Powering Progress.” I am grateful to my cohosts – the Center for American Progress, MGM Resorts International, the Clean Energy Project, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
This is the eighth consecutive year this event has been held in Las Vegas.
Each year, we have gathered to talk about making clean energy a reality.
In 2008, we heard from President Bill Clinton where he challenged Nevada to dive into renewable energy development and become energy independent.
The second National Clean Energy Summit was held months after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – also known as the stimulus – was signed into law. Nobel Prize Recipient and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis discussed how the new law was investing billions of dollars in clean energy markets and creating tens-of-thousands of jobs.
In 2010, we welcomed titans in the business community T. Boone Pickens and Thomas Donohue, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Pickens discussed how wind power and natural gas could redirect our energy supply, and Donohue acknowledged the role the federal government can play in supporting energy efficiency, thus creating
In 2011, Vice President Joe Biden gave the keynote address where he made a case that the United States should lead the world in clean energy.
Our fifth summit, in 2012, was memorable as we were again privileged to listen to President Bill Clinton. The day of the summit, President Clinton visited BrightSource Energy’s iconic solar power plant just a few miles from today’s event. President Clinton was awestruck by how proud the workers were at the solar site to be participants in the new clean energy economy.
That day we also heard from Elon Musk, a modern American genius, who also happens to be the CEO of Tesla Motors and Space X, and Chairman of SolarCity. He spoke to us about the innovative, cutting-edge work of Tesla Motors. At that summit, Elon Musk saw Nevada’s potential and soon brought his world class company to our state, building a state-of-the-art, multi-billion dollar gigafactory.
That same year, I challenged NV Energy to close the Reid-Gardner coal plant. Thanks, in part, to the investigative reporting of two Las Vegas television stations, Nevadans were rightly outraged by Reid-Gardner’s poisoning of the Moapa Paiute Indian Tribe by pumping climate-changing pollution into their air.
At the 2013 summit, we were privileged to hear from Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Energy Dr. Ernest Moniz. We are fortunate to have Dr. Moniz and his world-class intellect here with us again today.
That same year we also celebrated the Nevada State Legislature’s efforts in strengthening the state’s renewable energy standard and closing Reid Gardner.
This never would have occurred if not for the efforts of many of you here in this room. Together, we were able to witness Nevada’s largest utility — NV Energy — and the State legislature rising to the challenge.
And last year, Secretary Hillary Clinton spoke to us about the need for strong clean energy policies and American leadership addressing climate change.
Each year this summit has produced results. Each year we have made more and more progress. And each year this country’s leaders have come to Las Vegas to set our sights in building and promoting America’s clean energy economy.
This afternoon, we will hear from a leader who has done more than any other American to address climate change. A leader who has worked to turn renewable energy into a mainstream technology — the president of the United States, Barack Obama.
I look forward to President Obama outlining his Clean Power Plan, which will be the strongest action ever taken by our country to curb climate change and boost clean energy. But notwithstanding all of the progress we have made over the last decade, we still have many miles to travel before we sleep. In fact, in many respects, we are still stuck in the 19th century.
In 1882, more than a century before we gathered for the first National Clean Energy Summit, Thomas Edison was busy inventing the first electricity grid. Edison’s grid was improved by George Westinghouse in 1886 – an electric grid that is remarkably similar to ours today. Consider that – the grid technology that utility companies rely on is older than the Model T Ford.
This grid system makes money for utilities by generating electricity at central plants and delivering that power to customers through power lines. Costs for the infrastructure are paid by all customers based on how much power they consume – the more electricity we use, the more we pay. This utility business model made sense for many decades.
But electric utilities never imagined that families and businesses would be able to generate energy for the same price as utility power plants. They didn’t consider that consumers would rather pay to make their homes more efficient than pay for power they don’t need. And they didn’t expect Americans would grow to believe that reducing climate-changing carbon pollution is a priority.
Our electric grid has barely changed in a century, but that is quickly coming to an end. American demand for clean, reliable power choices is forcing change that is accelerating.
In 1886, the same year our first electric grid was coming on line, legendary baseball player Ty Cobb was born. Ty Cobb, an athlete who spent the last decades of his life near Lake Tahoe, played major league baseball for 24 seasons. He still holds the record for highest career batting average and batting titles. He was the first player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
For over a century, the conventional wisdom in baseball valued players like Ty Cobb above all others because they had the highest batting averages. Baseball teams thought the only way they could win games and make money was with players who had the best batting averages.
For over a century, there was an arms race among the wealthiest baseball franchises to field a team with the best sluggers in the sport. But that all changed just over a decade ago. It changed when the cash-strapped General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane, took a new look at how baseball games were won. Billy Beane ignored conventional wisdom, focused on results, and eliminated waste.
The Athletics began using an analytical, evidence-based approach to assemble a baseball team. With the help of state-of-the-art computer software, the team analyzed the value of every player; identified how to fully utilize their talents; and maximized the team’s return on investment.
The new approach, “sabermetrics,” better known as “moneyball,” changed the way baseball teams do business. It moved beyond 19th century measurements and single-minded objectives. Today, baseball clubs across the country are using these technologies and fielding the most competitive teams in history. This approach to baseball was successful, but not because it was new or different.
The Oakland Athletics succeeded because they were willing to adapt in the face of a challenge: they needed to win, even though they had less money than other teams. So Billy Beane and his team challenged the traditional way of thinking about the sport, and instead maximized value, cut waste, and focused on results. The same approach should be true in business.
Tesla challenged itself and came up with a new way to build and sell cars. Apple challenged itself and came up with a new way to build and sell phones. Amazon challenged itself and came up with a new way to sell books and consumer products.
Nevada and electric utilities should learn from moneyball. Just as Major League Baseball was stuck in the past, electric utilities continue to rely upon business models from past centuries. Companies you will hear today are developing new energy technologies and services of which Thomas Edison never dreamed.
This challenge should begin by properly valuing rooftop solar, properly valuing energy efficiency and properly valuing other distributed sources of clean energy. Ignoring these resources or treating them as a burden makes as much sense as the Washington Nationals benching Bryce Harper. Rather than fighting change, utilities should be integrating new technologies into their business models.
In 2014, Nevada’s own Lincoln County Power District surveyed their customers and learned that many of them had an interest in purchasing clean energy. And at a site near Panaca, the Lincoln County Power District responded by recently completing construction of Nevada’s first community solar project. Their 90 kilowatt facility is not large, but if tiny Lincoln County Power District can respond with that level of customer service, there is no reason why the nation’s largest utilities can’t do the same.
electric utilities continue to rely upon business models from past centuries Valley Electric, the electric cooperative that serves tens of thousands of Nevadans around Pahrump, has also been listening to its customers. Earlier this morning, Valley Electric joined me here to announce that a 17-megawatt community solar garden will be constructed in Pahrump. This facility will provide its customers with the
opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada. That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.
Like the Oakland A’s, early-mover states like New York, Hawaii and California are undergoing reforms because they know business model innovation will lead to success. These states are working to maximize the value of renewables, efficiency and energy storage.
Accepting this challenge would help cement Nevada’s reputation as a state that fosters and attracts innovative leaders. It will show that our regulatory environment isn’t dominated by a stodgy commitment to protecting the status quo.
This would give NV Energy, and utilities across the country, the opportunity to be the Oakland Athletics of this story. But only if they seize it. If they don’t, consumers will suffer.
We must stay serious about attracting new investment and creating markets for the power we generate and technologies, like Tesla batteries, we are now manufacturing. And we must work together to avoid a future where clean energy investment passes over Nevada.
It is clear that distributed energy, energy storage, and other sources of electricity and efficiency are competing with utility-scale power plants – as they should. This fact cannot be ignored. Recognizing this reality and working with consumers is the next step in Nevada’s energy future. That is why we have the National Clean Energy Summit: to map what Nevada and America must do to make progress.
I believe in Nevada. I believe that this is Nevada’s moneyball opportunity.
I believe Nevada can meet this challenge and begin the process of transforming our grid to fully valuing clean energy technologies.
Our guests and speakers today include some the world’s leading experts who epitomize our theme, “Powering Progress.”
Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and John Podesta will have a conversation about how the government is partnering with states to build on the progress we have made deploying clean energy technologies.
Rose McKinney James will moderate a debate with two of the nation’s leading experts on distributed generation, Charles Cicchetti and Lisa Wood.
The chancellor for the Nevada System of Higher Education, Dan Klaich, will moderate a discussion with Tesla and Panasonic about game-changing investments in clean energy, like the gigafactory.
Later this afternoon, we will have a discussion about upgrading our electric grid with 21st century communications technologies and energy storage that will include Paula Jackson, Dr. Ellen Williams, Tom Voss, Amy Ericson, and Susan Kennedy.
And in a few minutes, Neera Tanden with the Center for American Progress will lead a panel with the former Governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter, the former Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa, Nancy Pfund, and Geisha Williams.
I hope to learn from the experts about what needs to be done to keep the United States and Nevada on a path towards energy independence.
President John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
Utilities cannot remain attached to the past. They must not be wed to the old ways of doing things. We must change. We must adapt. If we do not, we risk missing a future that is bright for clean energy and a clean planet.
I ask you to join me in pursuing bold new solutions that make clean energy more affordable, more efficient, and better for the American people.