“Go All In” – A vision of a 100% renewable energy Nevada

David Gibson of GREENevada’s Envirolution recently discussed the importance of Climate change issues in northern Nevada with NCARE, a Resource for Clean Energy Information in Nevada. Read the full interview here.

Climate change demands response at all levels. In the lack of effective action internationally and nationally, arguably the boldest actions are being undertaken at the state and even at the local level. Included in these bold ideas are efforts to explore the feasibility of how states and cities, even small countries, can move to using 100% renewable energy for electrical generation.

2013 study  by Mark Z. Jacobsen of Stanford University, co-authored with scientists from U.C. Davis and Cornell, examined the feasibility of converting New York State’s energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight.  “The economics of this plan make sense,” said co-author Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University. “Now it is up to the political sphere.”

Scotland is taking the lead with a Scottish national government policy to generate 100% of Scotland’s gross annual electricity consumption from renewable sources, including 500 MW of community and locally-owned renewable energy, all by 2020.

Scotland has a population of 5.3 million and hardly any sunshine. Nevada has a population of 2.8 million, plenty of sunshine, and a reputation as the “Saudi Arabia of geothermal.”

If Scotland can undertake such an effort, why can’t we?

Is anyone thinking this boldly in Nevada?

David Gibson is.

NCARE: “David, I read “Go All In” your plan for a clean energy future for Nevada. And I first met you in the 2013 legislative session, at a hearing of the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor, where you tried to present the outline of the plan to the committee. Not, unfortunately, to a great reception. What role do you think our state legislators should play in helping us to achieve a 100 renewable energy Nevada?”

DG: My main concern is government getting in the way. For the most part, the legislature does not have a strong background in energy, particularly renewable energy. These are citizens with a wide array of background experiences. For example, in 2007, they passed a law requiring a home energy audit at the point of sale for every home. This could have been great, but regulations never came out and the real estate industry was upset that it would cost them home sales. So before it could go into action, it was repealed in 2011. That cost a lot of my faith in government leading the way to sustainability. The start-stop, tripping-over-your own feet actions we’ve seen at the state and national level have done more harm than good.

At the Federal level, subsidies and tax credits phasing in and out can have a devastating effect on renewable energy development – we can’t afford the same uncertainties at the state level. That’s why I asked legislators to extend the RPS through 2040, steadily increasing it to 100%.The utilities need to know that to plan their future energy mix. They build natural gas power plants expecting 20 years or more of operation.

However, our state legislature can make a huge difference. For example, Nevada could set a ‘carbon tax’ on all fossil fuels, and use the proceeds to build renewable energy and public transit infrastructure. Similar to the Cantwell-Collins ‘CLEAR Act’ at the Federal level, we could tax all fossil fuels at the point of extraction or at the point of entry into Nevada. Taxing fossil fuels to make up for their negative externalities (air pollution, water pollution, public health costs, etc) would discourage their use, while at the same time create funding for efficiency, renewable energy, public transit, and create thousands of jobs in Nevada.

NCARE: “Go All In” calls for citizen action at all levels to help us reach 100% renewable Nevada. How do you see Nevada citizens engaging in this effort?

DG: Every Nevada citizen can participate and benefit from engaging towards energy independence. Everyone can make their residence more efficient, even if it’s a rental, by changing their lightbulbs and showerheads to more efficient options. In most instances, you will start saving money on the next months’ energy bill.

For transportation, which is where we spend the most money on out-of-state on fossil fuels (over $5 billion annually), everyone can make an effort to walk, ride a bike, carpool, and take public transit more often.

Efficiency is the first step towards energy independence. If you own your home, or have a landlord who is supportive, you can take more advanced measures like hiring an energy auditor to identify air sealing opportunities, duct leakage, insulation needed, etc. While these steps are more expensive, they will make your home more comfortable, and the savings are significant.

If your building is already quite efficient, then your next step is renewable energy. There are many options – solar hot water, solar air heating, solar photovoltaics for electricity or powering an electric car, geothermal heat pump for heating and cooling, etc. You’ll want to discuss the best options with an energy adviser.

What are the next steps? What can we do right now to start our state on the path to the clean energy future you envision?

DG: We can make our homes more energy efficient. We can drive less.

I think we each should create an ‘energy action plan’ for how we can transition to 100% renewable energy in our own lives. I’d like to create a ‘Clean Energy Corps’ of students that can help every home and business owner create their own Energy Action Plan.

The other important step that every citizen can take is to get involved in our community. Meet with your representative. Write a letter to Governor Sandoval asking him to lead us to a 100% renewable energy Nevada. Donate to local non-profits that you support. Shop at local businesses that support efficiency, renewable energy, and locally grown food. Every dollar we spend can either support our state economy transitioning to Energy Independence, or can support fossil fuels and dirty energy imported from out of state or out of the country. The choice is yours.

NCARE: Thank you David. I’ll conclude with a reminder from the Jacobsen study on a 100% renewable New York State:

“The barriers [to a global renewable energy transformation] are primarily social and political, not technological or even economic.”

David just told me he’s is running for governor under the Nevada Green Party Ticket. 


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