Las Vegas Sun

July 24, 2021

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GUEST COLUMN:

Thanks to clean energy investments, Nevada is building back better

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Wade Vandervort

From left, Governor Steve Sisolak, US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and Representative Steven Horsford (NV-04) attend the Clean Energy Jobs & Justice Forum at North Las Vegas City Hall Thursday, June 10, 2021.

Traveling to the Silver State last week, I saw the country’s future coming to life. Nevada’s new clean energy package, Senate Bill 448, marks important steps to seize the potential in clean energy, creating well-paying new jobs, lowering energy bills, raising health outcomes and helping stave off the worst effects of climate change.

With President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan, all of America will follow suit.

Jennifer Granholm

Jennifer Granholm

Speaking directly with Nevadans leading the state toward this clean energy future, the promise ahead becomes clear.

Across the state, over 41,000 Nevadans already work in clean energy and grid jobs — and more than 4 in 10 of them are people of color. This workforce has enabled the state to produce the second-most geothermal energy in the nation, and the fourth-most utility scale solar. I saw their efforts up close on a tour of the Townsite Solar plant outside of Boulder City with Raquel, a foreman at the plant and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Thanks to Raquel and her colleagues, along with the state’s aggressive use of net metering, Nevadans have enough solar capacity to power over half of the state’s homes. And in Northern Nevada, Tesla’s Gigafactory has the state playing a lead role in manufacturing the batteries that are so critical to the clean energy future — showcasing the long-term benefits of public-private partnerships, as Tesla has flourished since receiving a $465 million Department of Energy loan in 2010.

Further, Nevadans understand that the faster clean energy grows, the faster we address the climate crisis. The drought drying up Lake Mead and the West right now is a reminder of the growing consequences of inaction.

Gov. Steve Sisolak, state Sen. Chris Brooks, Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, and the state Legislature’s leadership are acting. SB448 makes critical investments in statewide transmission capacity and in electric vehicle infrastructure. With more homes and buildings hooked up to clean energy sources, and fewer gasoline-powered cars on the road, Nevadans will pay less in energy bills while breathing cleaner air.

Not only did the bill receive bipartisan support — while writing it, legislators gave a broad range of stakeholders from every pocket of the state a seat at the table, including the IBEW and representatives of historically underserved communities.

The results speak for themselves. The bill will provide job opportunities for the state’s diverse building trades workers, who will help connect rural communities to renewable power sources with new transmission lines. And it offers disadvantaged Nevadans 40% of the investment benefits, such as new electric vehicle charging stations in lower-income communities that the private sector often passes over. These communities frequently stand in the shadows of overpasses and fossil fuel plants, bearing the brunt of the pollution. They must be at the front of the line for the benefits of clean energy.

As a former governor, I know the important role states play as laboratories of democracy, trying out bold new policies that can point the way forward for the rest of the country. And believe me, the Biden administration has taken notice of the path Nevada is charting.

Biden wants the country to build back better with clean energy. That’s why, since the start of his term, the Department of Energy has awarded over $1.5 billion in funding for clean energy projects, supporting innovators with big ideas for improving clean energy technologies and entrepreneurs with visions for widening access while supporting new jobs.

It’s also why we are laser-focused on passing the American Jobs Plan, which would give a massive boost to SB448’s investments. The American Jobs Plan would pour $100 billion into a national effort to modernize the grid, including transmission expansion, and implement a national Clean Energy Standard — much like the strong standard Nevada adopted in 2019 with bipartisan support. The Jobs Plan would expand EV chargers by 500,000 nationwide along major highways. It would put $300 billion into American manufacturing and supply chain build-out — so Nevadans can put more American-made solar panels on their roofs. All of this will lead to tens of thousands more jobs — in construction, engineering, maintenance, sales, operations, and in the wider opportunities that a growing local economy creates. And with that same commitment to extend 40% of the benefits to communities that have been left behind and gone unseen for too long, Nevadans of all backgrounds can rest assured they’ll have access to those job opportunities. As Nevada has shown, these are ideas that Republicans and Democrats can, and should, agree on.

The American Jobs Plan would put the country on the path to owning the global clean energy market, creating millions of well-paying jobs, lifting families into the middle class, and raising standards of living in the process. Nevada now has a head start — Biden will get us over the finish line.

Jennifer Granholm is secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. She served as governor of Michigan from 2003 to 2011.