Governor Sandoval Gambling His Vice Presidential Chances Away With Anti-Solar Record

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By Sarah Wolfe

New polling out of Nevada, New Hampshire, and Hawaii shows that one of the quickest ways for politicians to lose favorability points among voters is through solar apathy. Failure to stand up for solar can actually flip approval ratings on their head.

Governor Brian Sandoval
Governor Brian Sandoval

Case in point: For months, solar supporters in Nevada have been fighting back against NV Energy’s attempts to levy extreme fees on solar users. Prior to understanding the solar debate, Nevadans’ perception of Governor Brian Sandoval was largely positive. Polling shows that 63% of voters agreed that he was a strong leader for Nevada.

But those numbers flipped upon learning that Governor Sandoval failed to take a leadership role to protect solar jobs during this year’s legislative session and the ongoing regulatory proceeding. 54% of likely voters who were polled had an unfavorable view of Governor Sandoval after learning about his lack of leadership during the debate.

This perception isn’t confined to Nevada voters. In a subsequent poll, likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire were asked about Governor Sandoval’s viability as a Vice Presidential candidate in 2016. The poll found that fewer than half of all likely Republican primary voters in a key swing state would vote for Governor Sandoval after learning that he failed to protect solar energy in Nevada. The number of likely Republican primary voters who were unwilling to vote for Governor Sandoval as VP actually doubled.

Recent polling in Hawaii confirms that leaders everywhere face political repercussions when they fail to stand up for solar choice.  In October, the Hawaii Commission decided to eliminate net metering, the fundamental policy for rooftop solar growth. Polling found that 97% of Hawaii residents support more rooftop solar in the state, and three out of four voters oppose the decision to end net metering. After learning that Governor David Ige spoke favorably about the Commission’s decision to eliminate net metering, support for him drops drastically: 70% say they have an unfavorable opinion of his leadership.

That’s worth a long pause. Governor Sandoval and Governor Ige have tried to use the “wall” between their offices and the Commissions in their states as a way to stay out of the spotlight on solar issues. Yet the public is demanding leadership in both cases. The three states polled couldn’t be further apart politically (or geographically), but on this issue, they’re fully aligned.

With thousands of jobs and families’ lives on the line, American voters across the country are calling for leadership on solar. And it’s abundantly clear that there will be political repercussions for Governors Sandoval and Ige, and any politician who fails to take a stand against monopoly utilities that attempt to eliminate rooftop solar.

Sarah Wolfe is the Senior Manager of National Campaigns at Sunrun.

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27 thoughts on “Governor Sandoval Gambling His Vice Presidential Chances Away With Anti-Solar Record

  • “With thousands of jobs and families’ lives on the line,”

    Don’t forget the human race. It’s fate is tied to what we do over the next decade. We fix the climate or we dinosaur. (Disclaimer: the author of this post is part of the human race.)

  • This is excellent news. Now all we need are some solar companies to form a lobby that tracks these numbers and makes it very clear any politician taking the wrong path will be exposed to the public. Whether they be Democrat, Republican, or something else they will be eliminated strictly on their renewable energy viewpoints.

  • Leadership is working for the public interest, not special interests. Most politicians don’t seem to understand that. Send Bernie a few bucks.

  • The Republicans try to convince you that it is either a job OR the environment.
    That distorted fear mongering is dead wrong. One way we can have a more prosperous economy is WITH renewable energy.

    • Exactly. They want people to believe that the only way we can have jobs and a healthy economy is for us to poison the air and the water. It’s a crazy story, but a lot of people believe it for some reason. Is that the type of world the god of the bible would create? Were there smokestacks in the Garden of Eden?

      • In a way, many religious conservatives may be more comfortable with this framework. Remember humans were thrown out of the Garden, and sentenced to work for their food: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food…”; (sub?)consciously, life shouldn’t be too easy in this framework, even if machines really have lightened the load far beyond the perspective recorded in Genesis. This environmental analog to the Phillips Curve could be considered an industrial-age version of paying the wages of Original Sin. Lousy thermodynamics and ecology, lazy theology, but easily absorbed pop mythology.

        Having bounced back and forth between conservative and liberal outlooks and cultures in my own life, part of the issue of accepting better evidence in any field is probably people having to deal with the cognitive dissonance — no, cognitive distress — as evidence accumulates that one of your major cognitive frameworks for organizing your worldview is not working out, and some of the other frameworks out there (not just alternative ones, but antagonistic ones) are working better. It’s a lot of work to re-order one’s worldview, and a lot of people have simply never even imagined this to be something to be consciously managed — it really is meant to be absorbed from an Authority Figure Who Has It All Figured Out. It’s easier to switch from one fundamentalist belief-system to another than it is to kick the habit and learn to think independently, and a heck of a lot scarier. It seems that even when people seem to grow intellectually, they (we) will hang on to fragments of old cognitive frameworks, often in highly abstracted form, even as we consciously, perhaps proudly, shatter the original icon as too restrictive for anyone as advanced as our (current) selves.

        Fossil conservatives assume we can’t have a good life without oilcoalgasnukes despoiling the environment, so they choose their economy over the environment. Conservationist liberals make the same cognitive mistake, but choose to cut back, conserve, make do with less (demand destruction as a virtue, in other words) in order to save what’s left of the ecosystems. However, if I understand the difference between a thermodynamically closed system versus an isolated system correctly, coupled with the amount of light energy available to a planet planet orbiting a G2-class star in it’s habitable zone, they’re both way wrong. There really should be far more than enough resources to go around for 7 to 10 billion, easily… if we organize it with that end in mind.

        But technology has grown very slowly during the periods when our historically prominent religious and ethical systems developed, and we’ve never really approached the concept of technological development potentially being a dynamic moral and ethical factor in its own right. Instead, we’ve only treated instances of it as either “manna” to be wallowed in, or terrifying horrors to be tabooed.

        What a shame, if we all turn up our noses at waterfalls of new wine, just because we couldn’t catch it in our old, raggedy, fallin’ apart teacup-sized wineskins. What did that captain in Jaws say? “Gotta get a bigger myth.”

  • This is bad political commenting. Hamfisted at best. Naively sleazy at worst. Would Sandoval want to be vice president under Donald Trump? He’s a republican for god sake. He didn’t even want to run for the senate seat opening up due to Harry Reid retiring. Sandoval likes being governor and he’s popular in Nevada. A state with blue dog democrats and republican. The state got started (post war Vegas) by Chicago democrats (almost dixiecrats) for crying out loud. Who do you think funded all that construction? Nevada just ponied up $1.1 billion for Musk. Let him alone, solar lobby. Figure out US politics first and then start stirring up the nice tech geeks. Geez – who’s running this group?

  • Well there you go. I’ve always been a lot more worried about the Keeling Curve (which plots the ppm of CO2 on that mountaintop in Hawaii).

    The increasing steepness of that curve is quite terrifying if you think about it – we have to turn it around, or we basically bake the planet and steal our grandchildren’s future. It’s an existential problem, rather than a loosely correlated to health problem.

    To turn the curve around requires change to pretty much everything and, people resist change. Moreover, if you try to tell people how to live, they resist further. Sheesh, could you design a more stressful problem?

    • We have to turn the curve around in a non-stressful way.

      Everyone who drives an EV seems to love them. Given that we should reach purchase price parity in a few years and the cost to operate an EV is already much less than an ICEV people should willingly move to EVs and be happy with the change. People are also going to love the cleaner air.
      Replacing fossil fuels with RE takes place behind the scenes and most people won’t notice any change. Except that after a while their electricity bills should decrease. And their air and water will be cleaner.
      Those stressed will be a few NIMBY folks who will have to look at wind turbines or solar farms. And some people whose FF jobs will disappear, leaving them looking for new ways to make a living. And those who had over invested in FF businesses.

      • I just received a 4 page ad from a local Nissan dealer with pictures of numerous Nissan vehicles. The Leaf wasn’t even mentioned. I don’t get it.

        • Many local dealers are likely to fight EVs. Selling an EV means pretty much a one time opportunity for them to make money.

          I think we all (many of us) need to relax just a bit. We’re a year or two away from long range EV selling in the mid-$30k range. And a few more years from prices dipping significantly under $30k. We should see a lot more interest in EVs building over the next five or so years, many more people becoming aware and interested.

          if we can turn the market to mostly EVs by 2030 there should be few ICEVs left on the road by 2050.

          I’m presently sitting in a small Peruvian city and watching a lot of older cars being used as taxis. One thing we will need over the next few years is a sub $20k electric taxi. We’ll need to find a way to push the old gasmobiles off the road based on fuel savings.

          • “And a few more years from prices dipping significantly under $30k.

            You are probably right, but that time frame is depressing.

    • Dear Carl: I have always been interested in one or more of the Science, Technology, Engineering or Math [STEM] subjects. However one of my mentors taught me at an early age that to be successful you need to “Always talk to your customer in a language they can understand”. That simple piece of advice helped me over many rough spots in my career and on my way to retirement.

      I certainly respect the hundreds of scientists, mathematicians and software engineer who studies our climate and monitor things like the Keeling Curve. However, in my opinion they DO NOT speak to their customers in a manner that their customers can understand. Let me try to explain.

      For about 20 years now we have been talking about and promoting the existence of a coming crisis and the lack of support “we the people” seem to be giving to the whole Global Warming and Climate Change initiative. We have talked until we are blue in the face and while we have made some progress is has been very slow and mostly ineffective. To me, what we have been trying to do is push a square peg through a smaller round hole. Oh sure, sooner or later we seem to be rounding off the corners of that block at bit but it has been a very painful process and taken FAR too long.

      I want you to do a small experiment. The next time you talk to one of your neighbors, ask them if they have ever heard of the “Keeling Curve”. Or just ask them to define “ppm” to you in a manner one of your other neighbors might understand. If that neighbor happens to be a professor or someone who studies our climate you might get the correct answers. However, my guess is that your neighbor won’t be able to communicate the meaning of these terms. Remember J. Leno’s man on the street interviews and more recently “Waters World” on Fox News. Shocking how little our population knows about STEM subjects. Heck most individuals can’t even identify our Vice President when shown his picture.

      We have generations of people who are almost devoid of STEM education. To me our expectations are wrong – we are not talking to our customers in a language they can understand. We expect people who can’t even identify who their Vice President is yet we seem to have this expectation that they will rise to the challenges presented by the Keeling Curve. If we want to reduce the carbon content in our atmosphere then most likely we are going to have to educate an entire generation of people who are more concerned with the latest Hollywood role model, the newest cell phone, or who said what about someone on some social media site. If we expect the PEOPLE to rise to the cause we need to start talking to them in a language they understand.

      To me that means we need a clear set of “goals” and “objectives” built on a “strategy” our people can UNDERSTAND and WANT to support because it is important to THEM. Just as important as the latest hip-hop or rap song because the American people DO NOT believe their government can do the job. As a society we believe our Congress is only worthy of about 15% of our support. I certainly HOPE we can find the type of leadership we need to bring forth such plans. Because if we don’t, YOU are totally correct Carl, we should all be worried about the Keeling Curve.

  • Internationally it’s even more striking. Stephen Harper in Canada and Tony Abbott in Australia lost their premierships for several reasons (being complete assholes was one), but these certainly included their aggressive climate denialism and unconditional support for fossil fuels. Rational conservatives like David Cameron give at least token support to the energy transition.

  • Oh god. It’s always something. There’s always a story behind the story. SolarCity is breaking from the rooftop solar advocacy group called Alliance for Solar Choice. SolarCity, if I’m not mistaken, is one of Elon Musk’s companies. Musk also has a lot at stake in Nevada and has pretty much made the entire state of Nevada a silent partner on the battery plant. Sandoval has banked his political career on the plant. Nevada politicians are keeping low right now. Harry Reid is in an imbroglio and republicans are starting to circle. Sandoval may be playing it smart to lay low. All this renewables and EV push could be great for the state. Time will tell. They also need water. And lots of it.

    Here’s the story from Las Vegas Sun

    “SolarCity cutting ties with rooftop solar advocacy group”

    copy/pasted from the link above:

    “Since 2013, the alliance has advocated and lobbied for rooftop solar in Nevada and is working with regulators to devise a long-term price structure for net metering in the state.

    Sunrun, the nation’s second largest rooftop solar company and a fellow member of the alliance, has been SolarCity’s top ally in the net metering fight. But SolarCity’s split from the alliance highlights an apparent rift with its competitor.

    The two have differed on tactics for addressing the state’s solar policies and disagreed on how to work with lawmakers and regulators.”

    • And all that prevents Sandoval from taking a stand on NV Energy’s attempts to levy extreme fees on solar users?

      “Keeping low” is not political leadership, and that’s what people want, not politicians who will do anything to keep their jobs.

      • Sandoval put over $1 billion of the state’s money or future tax revenue on Tesla. That’s sticking his neck way out. China could build 10 gigafactories and put Reno under if it wanted. Tesla could own nine of those Chinese plants and probably not care if Reno turns into the largest indoor skatepark on the planet. It’s not the capital cost of a building. It’s profit and loss down the road. If the plant goes south, it’s Sandoval’s monument. Nevada is not in good shape fiscally. It needs tax money. Renewables aren’t bringing in tax dollars, yet. Nevada is already moving toward the right politically.

        This looks to be an issue between SolarCity and other rooftop PV providers and NV. Not an issue that Sandoval needs to enter until parties agree amongst themselves.

        • Republicans love tax waivers and abatements to lure corporations to their states and cities in spite of their ideology. Rick Perry was one.

          A professor who studies such things told me these corporate tax abatements never pay for themselves.

          On the other hand, I’m glad NV decided to subsidize Tesla and the EV industry. Someone needed to.

          • Politics is always local. Nevada might by gambling, but underneath it all it’s about mining. Tesla was looking to source lithium from Mexico and that didn’t sit well with NV pols. They are apparently in talks about major sourcing in state. It was the Comstock lode east (edit) of Reno that financed the union army during the civil war. Lithium may finance Reno’s development. Commodities are king – even in the information age. All those smartphones, EVs, PVs and windmills rely chiefly on mining metals.

            “Forget Vegas, Nevada Is Now About Reno And Lithium”


            “Nevada’s lithium resources are second only to those in Chile, according to the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Beyond this, Nevada has a rich mining history. Not only is it ranked 1st in mining the U.S., but it’s 3rd in the world. It also accounts for 80 percent of total U.S. silver output. This unique lithium position has turned Nevada into a lithium hub, and companies are now racing to stake out potential targets. In fact, the south western Nevada lithium space has even recently attracted the attention of well-known investor and philanthropist Frank Giustra, who is not only a financier, but also the founder of LionsGate films and friends with Bill Clinton.”

          • Do you know where the lithium is located: on federal land, state land, or privately owned land? Thanks.

          • I hope your question is being asked out of curiosity and not simply to be fatuous. I don’t know off hand so I’ll do your googling:

            Rockwood Lithium is already mining in Nevada and looks to be tied to Tesla:


            The mine is called “The Chemetall Foote Lithium Operation” and is in Clayton Valley near Silver Peak. I’ll say with 95 percent certainty and experience that the mine itself is BLM land. BLM land is cheap to mine. Plus the government tends to pick up reclamation and remediation. Ore processing could be private.

            It’s a pretty big mine, even from space:

          • Federal lands are indeed cheap to mine–no royalties per the General Mining Act of 1872. It’s the biggest ripoff of the American people I know of.

  • I never hear a Republican talk about making the air and water cleaner, although they are smart enough not to deny the existence of air and water pollution from fossil fuel sources. In Texas plug-in cars have to be pushed as a solution to air pollution. The mention of climate change is verboten.

    • Things are starting to change. A small group of Republican legislators recently spoke out about climate change. Republican governors and state legislatures actively support wind. There’s a Green Tea Party in the SE advocating for solar.

      I doubt climate change will be an issue that Republicans will talk much about during next year’s campaign. Too many Republicans accept climate change is happening and believe we need to take action.

      The opposition to renewable energy is most economic, not political, now. FF interests are going to slow the transition as much as they can and to the extent they “own” any politicians they will try to use that tool.

      • All of the major Republican candidates (Trump, Carson, Rubio) are hard core climate change deniers and they don’t seem to be reluctant to express their denialism when asked.

        • They’re battling for the votes of the most far right. Thankfully by rushing hard to the right in the primary they provide huge weapons to use against them in the general. Not that I think Trump or Carson will be the candidate. And Cruz is a long shot. VP material.

          • Trump has lasted much longer than anyone expected. Scary.

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