by Lydia Ball, Executive Director of Clean Energy Project NV
Four years ago, Clean Energy Project was preparing for the very first National Clean Energy Summit. It was the summer of 2008 and Nevadans were just beginning to understand the multitude of ways we could tap our natural resources and create our own energy. Co-sponsors of the event, the Center for American Progress, US Senator Harry Reid, and the University of Nevada Las Vegas were putting together a summit designed to focus the spotlight on clean energy here in Nevada and across the nation.
So, it seems a perfect time to take a few minutes pause as we finalize plans for our 5th Summit, on August 7 at Bellagio in Las Vegas, to look at how far Nevada has come since we first set out to codify the national clean energy dialog.
As with building any new industry, the path to capitalizing on our solar, geothermal, and wind resources hasn’t been an easy one; we are carving our own trails and foraging new ways to harness our resources. We were bound to have some busts, but, looking back, it’s worth noting that since the first National Clean Energy Summit in 2008 Nevada is not only not pursuing three new coal-fired power plants, but producing nearly 4-and-a-half times the amount of clean megawatts it was just four years ago. That’s 1,150 megawatts of clean energy, enough to power tens of thousands of homes.
In my role as Executive Director of the Clean Energy Project, I spend a lot of time speaking to the community – policy leaders, community leaders and everyday folks – helping them see the economic benefits of fully developing a clean energy economy. As the public’s focus continues to be on the economy, I’m often asked to explain exactly how these solar, wind and geothermal projects popping up across the Silver State really make a difference. Aside from feeling good about where the energy is coming from, what are these projects doing to help us now and how can investing in clean energy really pay off?
Of course there are dozens of reasons why investing in clean energy pays off, but one that’s easy for everyone to relate to is crystal clear when you look at the numbers. Since 2010, these clean energy projects, projects like Silver State North and Enel Green Power’s Stillwater plant, have generated more than $248 million in tax revenue. So, that means that, through clean energy projects, we aren’t just powering tens of thousands of homes with renewable energy and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels; we are stimulating the economy now and in the future.
The best part is, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Nevada has virtually no fossil fuels, but we have abundant natural resources from which we can grow an entire clean energy economy. There are undeniable geothermal reserves in the north and west, and the potential to capture the bright sunshine of southern Nevada and even some wide-open plains perfect for harnessing the wind in the east. The Silver State is ripe for a clean energy revolution.
That’s why this year’s Summit focus is so important. As we stand on the precipice with the opportunity to push forward the clean energy agenda, or see it fade into the background, we are centering this year’s discussion on The Power of Choice. At the Summit on August 7, you will hear from President Bill Clinton, electric vehicle entrepreneur Elon Musk, and FedEx CEO Fred Smith — visionaries who have made a choice; a choice to invest in a clean energy future. In addition to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, we will be joined by Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar; Center for American Progress Chair and Counselor, John Podesta; and Jon Wellinghoff, the Nevadan who is the Chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. They will all be gathered to illuminate the choices that we – individuals, businesses and governments – have when it comes to plotting out our energy futures.
National Clean Energy Summit 5.0 will highlight energy options and how the freedom to make clean energy choices can improve quality of life, save consumers money, and grow the economy. You can see it in action in Nevada: the more the public, business, and government understand the immense benefits of clean energy, the more likely they are to support and adopt policies to bring that future here sooner.
There has never been a more important time for Nevada and the nation to better enable investment in clean energy. We have done a lot since our first National Clean Energy Summit. It is my hope that as we head into our 5th National Clean Energy Summit it will be a springboard, propelling us forward in our efforts to develop our resources and create the clean energy future we deserve.