The Nevada legislature introduced a bill (S.B. 123) that would drastically reduce the state's dependence on coal power plants, but introduce an equal amount of natural gas generation and additional transmission lines that will continue to wreck Nevada's wild landscapes. The bill proposes to eliminate no less than 800 megawatts of coal-fired generation capacity, but requires utility companies to acquire or construct 700 to 800 megawatts of natural gas generation, in addition to 600 megawatts from renewable energy sources. The bill does not contain specific provisions that would encourage distributed generation, and offers only meager encouragement for utility companies to improve energy efficiency.
So not only will Nevada continue to draw a large portion of energy from fossil fuels, Nevada's most significant step into renewable energy is almost certain to be guided by utility companies that profit the most when they build destructive infrastructure on public lands, instead of investing in our communities (i.e. energy efficiency and rooftop solar). The heavy natural gas component of the legislation should be the biggest red flag that utility company profit, not sustainability, is a key objective of the legislation. As I wrote about in my last blog post, utility companies are exploiting the need for renewable energy to justify new and destructive infrastructure without abandoning fossil fuels, using the "intermittency" of renewable energy as an excuse to double down on new fossil fuel plants and transmission lines - all at the expense of ratepayers.
Perhaps most surprising is that the Sierra Club's Southern Nevada group is asking Sierra Club members to support the legislation without explaining that signing on in support will encourage more fossil fuel development and destruction (see the Sierra Club petition website here, although I'd caution against signing).
If this legislation passes, Nevada will invest heavily in fossil fuels as a "bridge", and thus stall any sensible or sustainable solution to our planet's ails. Instead of learning from the mistakes of other states, Nevada will
strengthen the destructive grip of energy companies on its air, water,
and wildlands. What Nevada needs is an aggressive investment in energy efficiency (as the Sierra Club previously supported), rooftop solar, and larger renewable energy facilities on already-disturbed lands.
Utility companies will always find a myriad of excuses to label the more sustainable (and less profitable) solution I outlined above as unreasonable, so if the environmental community is willing accept the paradigm of destruction that is guaranteed under the new Nevada legislation, then when can we ever expect to be on a truly sustainable renewable energy path?