By Gregory D.L. Morris
With its long history in mining and as the nation’s go-to destination for casino and sports gambling, the Silver State knows a little something about risk and reward.
The state’s economic growth bears this out; Nevada has a strong record of making safe, profitable bets. With the casino industry, the state shrewdly cashed in on human nature, and its subsequent focus on general tourism not only leveraged the casinos, but also Nevada’s unique natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities.
Unfortunately, Nevada is going down a far riskier path when it comes to energy. It finds itself stuck in a high-stakes gambit, not only in the context of the state’s economy as a whole, but also for individual ratepayers who will pay the price in higher electric bills.
At this moment, Nevada, a state with unrivaled solar and geothermal potential, is relying upon out-of-state natural gas for 75 percent of its electricity generation. That lack of diversity holds Nevada’s electricity rates captive to a resource that is priced globally and, because it is not produced in-state, vulnerable to supply disruptions. This makes no sense in a state that is so rich in renewable energy assets. The same relentless sun and wind that were likely cursed by Nevada’s early pioneers are ready sources of electricity today.
Moreover, while it is true that Nevada has been working to diversify its energy portfolio with solar and other renewables, this is not happening nearly fast enough.
NV Energy’s recent noise about doubling its renewable generation would be a step in the right direction if it were not such a transparent ploy to derail the popular Energy Choice Initiative. The company conditioned its announced plan to add 1,001 megawatts of solar capacity by 2021 on the defeat of Energy Choice.
Nevada’s energy future is too important to be hostage to a monopoly’s fear of free market competition.