After much talk, it’s time for action in the Nevada Legislature. As the session nears its halfway point, several key renewable energy and climate action bills got their full committee hearings. How did that go? Let’s just say the day was very energetic.
As the committee passage deadline nears, the full Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee heard several clean energy bills that were originally aired out by the Energy Subcommittee. Assembly Energy Subcommittee Chair Chris Brooks (D-Las Vegas) hit the table throughout the meeting to explain the progress of these bills.
Yesterday’s hearing highlighted the critical decisions the full Legislature will soon make on the future of Nevada’s clean energy industry.
During its first hearing, AB 223 ran into some skepticism. But after Assembly Member Maggie Carlton (D-Sunrise Manor) again asked how the program works, Assembly Member William McCurdy II (D-Las Vegas) reached a breakthrough when he, Brooks, and Assembly Member Jill Tolles (R-Reno) discussed its purpose in expanding energy efficiency opportunities to low-income communities. Tolles ultimately broke it down: “That money’s stretching further. We’re helping more people.” McCurdy exclaimed, “Bingo!”
The first hearing for AB 206 was enlightening in its deep dive into renewable portfolio standard (RPS) policy. Yesterday featured much more heat. After repeated questions on how AB 206 fits into the Question 3 energy choice initiative, Brooks stated, “Nothing in this ballot initiative is meant to conflict with Nevada’s stated goals on renewable energy.” He even reminded his colleagues on how several prominent Question 3 supporters stated they want this because they want more renewable energy.
But when the two very casino giants that made this claim, Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts, turned around to oppose AB 206, Brooks and the renewable energy advocates in the room were startled. That prompted a fiery rebuttal from a representative for none other than Nevada Republican legend Sig Rogich.
“Clean energy is a key sector for Nevada’s economic development. […] Nevada has attracted billions of dollars in investment, thousands of new jobs.” – Rogich Communications
Rogich joined with environmental activists in calling for the passage of AB 206 to ensure the availability of the very renewable energy Las Vegas Sands and other companies claim they want.
Last, but certainly not least, was AB 270. Several environmental activists in Las Vegas and Carson City made impassioned pleas to revive Nevada’s stalled rooftop solar sector by fixing what they see as the colossal error in the Public Utility Commission’s cut-off of retail net metering. So did powerful players like Tesla: “We support efforts to bring rooftop solar back to Nevada.”
“We have the ability to harness all of that sunshine & create good jobs. […] We also have the ability to lead the nation in renewable energy.” – Verna Mandez, Las Vegas
On this, NV Energy signaled the possibility of a compromise. “This is not a small issue. […] It will take us a while to reach a final solution.” If NV Energy can accept some form of AB 270 that still restores retail net metering for rooftop solar users, that will in and of itself mark a major clean energy breakthrough this legislative session.
In contrast to the heated arguments over the three bills discussed above, Assembly Commerce and Labor Chair Irene Bustamante Adams (D-Spring Valley) signaled smooth sailing for AB 452 to establish an interim study on Question 3 implementation and AJR 10 to restate Nevada’s opposition to the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. Those bills may get out of committee very soon, but Assembly Commerce and Labor only has one more week to get the other bills out of committee and onto the floor.
But in the coming days, all eyes will be on the fate of AB 206, AB 223, and AB 270. Will these casinos continue to oppose something they claimed they support? Will NV Energy follow through on its promise to find a mutually agreeable solution on rooftop solar net metering? And where will Assembly Members Bustamante Adams, Carlton, and Tolles ultimately fall on these bills? The future of Nevada’s energy policy now rests in their hands.