Why Nevadans Should Vote Yes on Question 6

October 22, 2018 | 9:30 am
Photo: BlackRockSolar
Laura Wisland
Former Contributor

The recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which predicts the planet will surpass the 1.5°C rise in global temperature by as early as 2030 is a wake-up call for our country to take swift and far-reaching action now to avoid the worst consequences of global warming. In the Western US, we are already starting to see the impacts of a warming climate threatening water supplies, and increasing the intensity and frequency of wildfires and other extreme weather events like heat waves. Transitioning away from fossil-fueled sources of electricity generation like coal and natural gas towards clean and carbon-free renewable energy is one of the most impactful and cost-effective solutions we can take today to reduce the threat of climate change.

Why should Nevada voters support Question 6 on the November ballot?

In November, voters in Nevada will be asked to decide whether they want to step it up and accelerate the clean electricity transition. The Nevada Renewable Energy Standards Initiative or “Question 6” would raise the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 50% by 2030. Nevada’s current RPS is 25% by 2025 and given that in 2017 nearly 22% of the state’s net electricity generation came from renewable resources, primarily solar and geothermal, the current RPS is unlikely to do much to help Nevada make additional investments in clean electricity. A YES vote on Question 6 is the only way for Nevada voters to guarantee more clean, renewable electricity for their state.

Voting yes on Question 6 will improve air quality

More renewable electricity for Nevada will not only help address climate change, it will reduce dependence on natural gas-fired electricity, which is contributing to the state’s poor air quality. In 2017, natural gas generation supplied a whopping 70% of Nevada’s electricity needs.

This year, the American Lung Association gave Clark and Washoe counties a failing grade “F” for air quality, and Las Vegas and Henderson had the 12th-worst level of smog in the nation out of 227 cities. A study jointly conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), NextGen, and GridLab estimates that a 50% RPS would cut nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from power plants by 55% compared to 2017 levels, and reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 74%. When power plants emit less NOX and SO2, Nevadans breathe less soot and smog, resulting in fewer asthma attacks, ER visits, and premature deaths. That’s why this mom is stepping out and urging people to vote yes on Question 6.

Nevadans want more clean and affordable renewable electricity and the jobs that come with it

According to the 2017 State of the Rockies poll (see question 30), 80% of respondents in Nevada want to encourage the use of solar energy. Why is this? Nevada has world-class solar power generation potential, and Nevadans want to take advantage of this resource. In addition, costs of solar generation have fallen by 78% since 2009 making solar power one of the cheapest—if not the cheapest—electricity resource for the state.  Finally, the NRDC/NextGen/GridLab study also estimates that raising Nevada’s RPS to 50% will support new green-collar jobs. Nevada already supports over 6,500 solar workers. New investments in local solar to meet the RPS could support up to 11,170 new clean energy jobs in Nevada.

The grid can handle more renewables

Opponents of clean energy like to say that wind and solar generation depend on the weather, so they will make the grid unreliable. This is not true. Grid operators are constantly managing for fluctuations in both the supply of and demand for electricity. Large quantities of renewables on the grid make balancing supply and demand more challenging, but we have the tools to handle this.

Making sure renewable installations are spread out, creating financial incentives to shift electricity demand towards times of the day when renewable generation is abundant, and investing in energy storage like the batteries Tesla is building in the Gigafactory near Sparks are all examples of these tools. I’ve written a lot about grid integration solutions for the California RPS and all of the same issues apply to Nevada; folks interested in learning more should check out this blog.

UCS urges Nevada voters to get to the polls early or head to the ballot booth on November 6 and vote YES on Question 6. Check here to find the location and hours for early voting near you (early voting ends on November 2). It’s truly time for Nevada to turn its world-class renewable energy resource into clean electricity that will benefit its residents, economy, and environment.