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Coalition Wants To Put Renewable Energy Goals To The Voters


Last year, the Nevada Legislature voted to increase the amount of electricity coming from renewable sources. AB206 would have required that 40 percent of electricity generated in Nevada to be renewable by 2030.

The requirement is known as the Renewable Portfolio Standard or RPS.

Currently, the state is committed to 25 percent renewables by 2025.

Alas, Governor Brian Sandoval, while commending the idea, vetoed the bill in June, pointing to a ballot initiative that would break up Nevada’s energy markets.

The so-called Energy Choice initiative was passed by voters in 2016. It must now go to another vote in 2018, then, if it passes, can be added to the Constitution.

Sandoval is worried that it would cause too much chaos changing renewable standards AND possibly breaking up the energy market at the same time.

Now, a new group wants to put the renewable standards question to the voters. A coalition calling itself Nevadans for a Clean Energy Future is sponsoring a ballot measure that would change the renewable standards to 50 percent by 2030.

Jessica Scott with Vote Solar, which is part of the coalition of groups pushing for the ballot measure, said that even though most Nevadans support clean energy sources, Nevada's laws are behind.

“This ballot initiative gives Nevada voters the power to move our state forward,” she said.

This ballot initiative would change the constitution and would have to go through two votes - in 2018 and 2020 - then pass through the Legislature then be added to the state's Constitution.

Legislators already support the idea of increasing the renewable portfolio standard. They passed that increase in the last legislative session.  But Andy Maggi, the executive director of the Nevada Conservation League, said the voters should be heard even if there is a legislative solution.

“We want to make sure that voters have an opportunity to weigh in on this question," Maggi said.

He said clean energy is a fast-growing segment of the country's economy and if Nevada doesn't act soon on expanding its use of renewable energy sources other states will move ahead of us.

As far as the question of the energy choice effort, Scott said it doesn't impact their push to increase renewable energy use.

“I think this coalition just wants to make sure we have renewables in place regardless of what the energy market structure looks like in Nevada,” she said.

Scott also said that passing a stronger RPS will create stability in the market and protect the state from some of the uncertainty the solar power industry has suffered recently.

The measure is in the signature collecting stage. They need to collect 110,000 signatures by the second week of June in order to get it on the ballot.

Maggi says this initiative will not preclude his group and others from also pursuing a legislative fix - one that a new governor might sign.

“Nevada really is the place, I think, where this economy, this technology has a chance to really take off and we have the opportunity to be the leader in that,” he said.

Jessica Scott, interior west director, Vote Solar;  Andy Maggi, executive director, Nevada Conservation League.

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(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)