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Dream Big: States Setting Aggressive Renewable Goals Seeing Results

By Sara Birmingham, Senior Director, State Affairs, Solar Energy Industries Association

So-called ‘moonshot’ efforts are often criticized for being too ambitious and offering few concrete steps for achieving their large-scale goals. Nevada’s approach to renewable energy could certainly be categorized as a moonshot effort, but the state’s commitment has been far from an empty promise. Already, Nevada is seeing economic and environmental benefits as government, businesses, and consumers work together to achieve a carbon-free future.

Nevada has been leading on renewable energy since 1997 when it became the second state in the nation to enact a renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Earlier this year, the state legislature unanimously passed one of the highest RPS standards in the country, and it was signed into law by Gov. Sisolak in April. The new standards require that 50 percent of Nevada’s energy must come from renewable sources by 2030, doubling its previous 25 percent commitment. They also set a goal to achieve 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050.

The steady growth of Nevada’s clean energy economy helped build the case that these targets are achievable. At the end of 2018, there were more than 32,000 clean energy jobs in the state. Businesses, local chambers of commerce, labor unions, and community groups all know firsthand how renewable development is already boosting Nevada’s economy, and these groups came together to support the bold, new targets.

Access to clean energy has been a selling point for the state to attract investment from businesses of all sizes, and the new standards will continue that momentum. According to some estimates, Nevada’s new RPS could support an additional 11,170 full-time jobs by 2030, and generate $539 million in wages, as well as $1.5 billion in economic activity.

Beyond setting higher RPS targets, Nevada has followed through on targeted steps to help achieve them. State lawmakers also recently enacted a new electric school bus pilot program, and called for a study about the benefits of electric vehicles and how best to fund the transition to them. Additionally, the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection now must study and report on the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and identify opportunities for reducing those emissions.

Nevada has demonstrated how bold targets help drive renewable energy businesses and grow the state economy. These targets also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and create a healthier place for future generations to grow and thrive. Transitioning to cleaner energy will also result in lower energy bills, and Nevadans demonstrated overwhelming support for the increase of renewable energy in the last election.

Western states like Washington and New Mexico have set similarly aggressive RPS goals. Other states should consider how they can make bold targets work for them as they move toward cleaner, renewable sources of energy. There does not have to be a one-size-fits all moonshot approach, but Nevada is a prime example of how to leverage a lofty goal into tangible, real-world change that can both grow the economy and fight climate change.