The U.S. electric generating system is responsible for about 31 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — this is because carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are released when coal and other fossil fuels are burned to create electricity.
We already are experiencing the impacts of our over-reliance on fossil fuels in the climate disruption currently taking place throughout the western U.S. — including extreme heat events, ongoing drought and increasingly destructive wildfires.
With the recent closing of two of the three units of the Reid Gardner coal burning power plant in southern Nevada; a renewable portfolio standard requiring an increasing amount of renewables; and other clean energy legislation passed over the previous decade, Nevada is developing a proactive and effective clean energy policy. Our leaders have recognized our obligation to future generations to take steps to address climate pollution that threatens the environment and economy of our state.
We have the chance to make our state clean energy policies even more effective when the EPA releases final regulations for the national Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent by 2030.
The Clean Power Plan, to be released later this summer, will include state-specific pollution standards for carbon. Each state will then be responsible for developing its own plan — tailored to conditions in the state — to meet the required pollution limits. After the release of the final standards this summer, Nevada will have until August 2016 to submit an implementation plan to map out emission reductions.
When the Clean Power Plan is released, you might hear some shrieking about how the plan is too expensive, how the EPA is overstepping its bounds — the whole familiar song book about why we can’t do anything about carbon pollution. In fact, some states — thankfully Nevada is not one of them — have already sued to block implementation of the Clean Power Plan.
Don’t let this pessimism influence your thinking too much. The Clean Power Plan will give states a lot of latitude in coming up with a cleaner energy strategy that will be effective and economical for state conditions — a mix that in Nevada will probably include energy efficiency, increased renewables and natural gas. And as a result of our existing state clean energy policies, Nevada is in a strong position to comply with the goal of 35 percent reduction by 2030. In fact, NV Energy CEO Paul Caudill recently said, “Here in Nevada, we have nothing to fear. The state of Nevada and NV Energy are both in great shape to meet these federal compliance requirements.”
Moreover, Nevada voters strongly support clean energy development. A survey conducted by the Tarrance Group, released this month, showed overwhelming support for the state of Nevada to pursue increased renewable energy development. Seventy-four percent of likely voters think that it’s appropriate for the government to promote the development and use of renewable energy in Nevada. Seventy-three percent think Nevada doesn’t rely enough on renewable sources of energy.
It’s clear a robust Clean Power Plan is going to be a win for the state, and is going to be supported by the people of Nevada.
Anne Macquarie blogs about clean energy and climate change in Nevada at nevadanscleanenergy.org.