Las Vegas’s Green Building Standards: Compliance And Profitability – Built in 1959, the ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign has been powered by solar energy since 2014.
Voters in Arizona and Nevada faced a similar choice when they went to the polls Tuesday: Should their utility companies get half of their energy from renewable sources by 2030?
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Las Vegas’s Green Building Standards: Compliance And Profitability
The two voters gave a different verdict. Proposition 127 was defeated in Arizona in what local news outlets called the “costliest ballot fight” in the state’s history. Meanwhile, nearly 60 percent of voters in Nevada supported Question 6, adopting a new recycling standard.
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“Clean energy initiatives have always received strong support from Nevada voters,” says Andy Magee, executive director of the Nevada Conservation League, which supported the measure.
Arizona and Nevada are among the nation’s sunniest states: In 2006, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory ranked Nevada and Arizona first and second among US states with solar energy potential. Electricity from wind, hydroelectric and geothermal sources can also be included. Before adopting the more ambitious standard, Nevada required utility companies like NV Energy to provide 25 percent of their energy from renewables by 2025. The current goal for Arizona’s utilities is just 15 percent over the same time horizon.
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Forcing utility companies to get a minimum percentage of their energy from renewables is the simplest and most effective way to encourage a transition away from fossil fuels, says Greer Ryan, a renewable energy expert at the Center for Biodiversity, which is recognized by both states. ‘ Proceedings. Many states do not have renewable-energy standards for utilities. Arizona and Nevada are two of more than 30 states that already have such mandates, though Ryan doesn’t believe electric companies will need their targets come Tuesday night.
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While Nevada is now approaching its potential, Arizona has stalled. The reasons for the divergence have a lot to do with what happened on the ground in each state during the campaign season. While Nevada’s main electric company remained neutral on the Silver State’s metering, Arizona’s power companies put up a big fight. Groups allied with the state’s main utility, Arizona Public Service Electric Co., have spent more than $30 million campaigning against the proposal.
About 30 states set renewable energy requirements for their utilities, but standards vary widely. Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency
The coalition against Proposition 127 has often cited the possibility that Arizonans could see increased energy costs if the measure passes. Matthew Benson, a spokesman for Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, a utility-funded political action group, points to an Arizona State University analysis and several figures cited by the industry that predict the costs electric companies will incur to shut down coal-fired power plants. Build clean energy infrastructure – passed on to ratepayers.
Those arguments resonated with Janine Rodriguez, a paralegal who lives in Phoenix. Her most impressive campaign poster compared Arizona’s Proposition 127 to a similar measure passed in California in 2015, which opponents claim raised electricity prices for Californians.
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Rodriguez already pays about $540 a month for electricity to cool her 3,300-square-foot home during the summer months. It’s so expensive that she regularly lets the temperature inside her house climb above 80 degrees.
Benson and opponents of the measure raised eyebrows that a group from outside Arizona raised most of the nearly $24 million to get 127 on the ballot. NextGen America, an advocacy group funded by California billionaire Tom Steyer, has fueled ballot initiatives in both states.
“This initiative did not include input from Arizona families, community leaders or businesses,” says Benson, adding that it did not include any protections for Arizona ratepayers.
Proponents of 127 countered those claims, arguing that switching to more renewables would save Arizonans $4 billion in the long run, according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Other nationwide studies have found that nearly 30 states that have implemented renewable energy standards have significantly reduced carbon emissions and achieved a host of public health and environmental benefits.
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Jamison Fosser, a political strategist and senior adviser at NextGen America, summed up the measure’s defeat as a victory for special interests over the environmental leanings of Arizona voters. “Despite widespread support for renewable energy in the state,” he writes in an email. “Arizona’s Prop. 127 result is an unfortunate example of the power wielded by investor-owned utilities.”
Former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Chris Mays speaks at a rally in Phoenix in August in support of the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona ballot initiative — a proposal that would require the use of more renewable energy in the state. Melissa Daniels/AP Photo
Meanwhile, in Nevada, NV Energy, the state’s main utility company, remained neutral on Question 6. Instead, it focused on defeating another measure that would have stripped its monopoly status by requiring the state to create a free retail electricity market for competitors. .
While that certainly helped pass Question 6, Andy Magee notes that Nevada has previously shown a desire to raise renewable energy standards. A bill to increase energy portfolios to 40 percent by 2030 failed last year thanks to a last-minute veto by Gov. Brian Sandoval. Already coming so close has helped strengthen pro-environmental groups, Magee says. So this time, proponents drafted a slightly more ambitious constitutional amendment and took it directly to the voters.
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Nevada native Blanca Ortiz quit her job as a personal trainer to join the Next Gen campaign. Enhanced renewable energy targets are a natural fit for the state, she says. Solar power, in particular, makes perfect sense — and a reputation for clean energy would give a state characterized by the late-night neon of Las Vegas casinos a new identity. “People here support it because we’ve lived under the sun for so long,” she says.
But Question 6 is just one step on the road to raising Nevada’s renewable energy standards. Thanks to state law, voters will have to approve it again in 2020 before it can be fully implemented. But Maggie hopes that never happens. He is confident that the recent success will serve as a mandate for the upcoming legislative session, which will implement the standards early through policy.
Ryan of the Center for Biodiversity hopes Arizona will eventually follow Nevada’s lead. “Arizona needs stronger renewable energy goals,” she writes in an email. “I don’t think this will be the last we see of this problem.”
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