Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2019

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Guest column:

Nevada must not be outshined in renewable energy development

There is an old political trope in Nevada: We are at the top of every bad list and the bottom of every good one.

That should not be the case, especially when it comes to renewable energy. But sadly, we are lagging behind states that are not even in our league when it comes to renewable resources.

That is why it is time for us to increase our Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), a policy that ensures a percentage of electricity consumed in the state comes from clean, renewable energy sources like solar, geothermal and wind.

Nevada was once a national leader in RPS requirements. Now we don’t even rank in the top 10.

That’s why I am supporting a ballot initiative spearheaded by Nevadans for a Clean Energy Future to increase the RPS to 50 percent by 2030. Doing so will allow us to cut our carbon emissions by 3 million tons annually and generate at least $5 billion in new wages.

Right now, the state’s RPS is on track to hit 25 percent renewables by 2025. That low threshold shortchanges our abundance of untapped resources and the nation’s best workforce.

Nevada has the second-most geothermal reserves in the nation and ranks in the top 10 for solar jobs. But to power our electric grid, Nevada spends $700 million per year on out-of-state fossil fuels, meaning more than 80 percent of the energy we consume comes from outside of our borders.

Furthermore, states like Maryland, Maine and Connecticut have higher standards than we do — and few would consider their renewable resources more bountiful than ours.

Vermont’s RPS is set to hit 75 percent by 2032, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has a bill on his desk to increase his state’s RPS to 50 percent by 2030.

Nevada was among the first states in the nation to create an RPS in 1997. We were five years ahead of California and 10 ahead of Oregon. Both of those states are now on track to hit 50 percent by 2030.

We should be too.

In 2017, I led a bipartisan effort in the Legislature to increase the RPS to 80 percent by 2040 — an aggressive yet realistic goal. There was an eventual compromise of 40 percent by 2030. We passed that law and sent it to Gov. Brian Sandoval, who vetoed it.

That’s why we have to take this to the ballot, and why we need you to support this in November. We don’t know what the future of our energy market holds. But we know this initiative will hold any power provider in the state accountable to ensure that 50 percent of our power supply is renewable.

By doing nothing, we’re telling energy developers that we’re OK with fossil fuels that damage our environment and affect our health. By doing nothing, we’re missing out on the potential to bring in $5 billion in wages and 92,000 construction jobs to the state.

How we power the grid isn’t just about electrons for me. It’s about how we will energize the future of our state.

During the past 25 years, I’ve worked as an electrician, created one of the state’s pioneering rooftop solar companies and passed laws to ensure that we modernize our energy markets.

In that time, I’ve seen more than $6 billion in renewable energy investments and 20,000 jobs created here. I’ve seen solar go from a novelty to a power source that can replace the harmful commodities that we’ve depended on for far too long.

History shows that we have the resources, workforce and will in this state to do what’s right. There’s no reason for us to be at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to RPS requirements.

You may see volunteers out on the streets collecting signatures to ensure we can get this measure on the ballot, and I encourage you to sign that petition.

We cannot let less sunny states outshine us any longer.

Nevada Assemblyman Chris Brooks founded Las Vegas Solar Electric in 2001 and served in leadership positions at Bombard Renewable Energy and Valley Electric Association. He was elected to the Legislature in 2016.