Published on April 5th, 2019 | by Charles W. Thurston0
Nevada Clean Jobs Boom Traceable To Gov. Sandoval Foresight
April 5th, 2019 by Charles W. Thurston
Some state solar markets are created with a single legal keystone, creating market exuberance where there once was dust. New statistics that now show Nevada leads the nation in clean job growth did not arise from a roll of the dice in Las Vegas.
The 32% rise in clean jobs, an 8,000-job boom, in the state last year is directly traceable to a bill — AB405 — signed by then-Governor Brian Sandoval in June 2017, which was approved by the legislature the following September. The new law effectively returned the state to the pro-growth solar policy it had before a 2015 regulatory decision all but froze the residential solar market, says the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Net metering, in particular, was the mechanism that led to the 2018 clean jobs boom. AB405 established certain protections for and ensures the rights of a person who uses renewable energy in this State and revises provisions governing net metering, according to the NV Legislature. Nonetheless, some other states are still grappling with utility efforts to end net metering.
Nevada’s clean economy is now dominated by three major industries within the broader sector — energy efficiency at 11,000 jobs, solar at 9,700 jobs, and energy storage at 8,300 jobs, according to a new study by E2, “Clean Jobs Nevada.” Combined, these industries account for 91% of all Nevada’s clean energy jobs, E2 says. And the number of solar jobs would have been even higher if the data was collected today, because it would more fully reflect demand increases spurred by the 2017 restoration of net metering, the analysts note.
While Nevada’s solar sector awaits the full impact of these recent policy changes, energy storage quickly became the third industry pillar of Nevada’s clean energy labor market in 2018, E2 says. Over 8,000 Nevadans now work in energy storage — the third most of any state — a rapidly developing technology that has the potential to alter how our nation generates, stores, and consumes electricity, it adds.
Less obvious, but still important to the health of Nevada’s clean energy labor market, is the growth of smaller industries like geothermal, E2 points out. More than 400 Nevadans work in geothermal and an additional 475 work in bioenergy and combined heat and power, it notes.
The growth numbers are not particularly red or blue. “Looking at different regions within the state, clean energy jobs are found in every corner—Democratic and Republican districts, rural and urban communities. Every county in the state, from Churchill east of Reno to White Pine on the Utah border, is home to clean energy jobs, with more than 18,600 workers in the Las Vegas Valley metro alone,” the E2 report observes.
Despite the strong 2018 gains, Nevada could grow even faster if additional legislation were passed, suggests E2. One focus is on renewable energy. “In the November 2018 election, almost 60% of Nevada voters voted for Question 6, which, if passed again in 2020, would require electricity providers to get 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030,” E2 says.
Similarly, “Expansion of technologies like solar and geothermal benefits Nevada’s economy by creating jobs and delivering more low-cost clean energy to the state’s businesses and communities. Voters don’t have to wait until 2020 to secure more clean energy, however. The Legislature and Governor can enact a 50%-by-2030 RPS during the 2019 session,” E2 says.
Another way to boost renewable energy is “to modernize our electricity grid by working cooperatively with neighbors and running the Western grid, currently separated into 38 balancing authorities, as a more integrated system. Doing so will facilitate more renewables on the grid and open up more market opportunities for Nevada renewables,” E2 notes.
A second major focus area should be energy efficiency, E2 reckons. “Nevada should raise energy efficiency savings targets to 1.5% of annual sales. NVE has recently proposed a significant increase in efficiency investments, but even with these increases is still lagging other states and utilities in the region. Increased investments in cost effective energy efficiency could save customers tens of millions of dollars on their utility bills per year and cut the state’s dependence on fossil fuels,” they say.
A third area of focus is EV promotion. The legislature should “authorize additional electric utility investments in EV infrastructure and support pursuant to SB145 from 2017,” E2 says.The state also should “prioritize zero-emission vehicles when investing funds from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust and stretch those dollars further by securing matching investments by the electric industry in supporting electrical infrastructure,” E2 says. Finally, the legislators should “seek opportunities to electrify transportation and continue to grow the EV market in the 2019 legislative session and interim,” E2 advises.