What 3 pending energy bills would mean to Nevadans

Steve Marcus

Rudy Zamora, Nevada director of Chispa, speaks during a clean energy rally in front of the Sawyer State Building on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. Chispa Nevada is a Latino organization that fights climate change and supports clean energy.

Several bills to reduce Nevadans’ electric bills and build the state’s clean-energy economy are being considered by the Legislature.

Here’s what you should know after energy-related hearings conducted in Carson City so far this month:

Assembly Bill 206

The Assembly Subcommittee on Energy heard testimony Wednesday on Assembly Bill 206, which supporters hope will push the state to the forefront of clean energy development.

The bill would raise the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 50 percent by 2030, with a goal of 80 percent by 2040.

Bill sponsors said employment in the clean energy sector would increase, as Nevada meets the demand from large companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon for their hubs in the state.

The state’s clean energy and energy-efficiency economy employs more than 20,000 people, and that number would grow under AB 206, advocates said.

“Nevada has already proven it can lead on clean energy development, and the renewable portfolio standard bill will keep the momentum going to create new jobs, secure low-cost energy rates, and protect the health of our air and water,” said Elspeth DiMarzio, a Sierra Club campaign representative.

Upping the renewable portfolio standard would aid the clean-energy economic expansion supported by Gov. Brian Sandoval and legislative leaders.

The measure has support from various communities which would be impacted by the legislation.

Rudy Zamora, executive director of Chispa Nevada, a Latino organization working to support the clean energy economy, emphasized the impact clean energy jobs have had on the state.

“Communities of color are strengthening Nevada’s clean energy economy,” Zamora said. “Over the last two decades, the renewable standard has helped our state grow tens of thousands of jobs. At the same time, it has helped clean up our air and water. Today, every higher-education public school in Nevada offers training, certifications or degrees in clean energy. A stronger renewable standard will mean more jobs, more careers and more of our families making Nevada our clean energy home.”

Dylan Sullivan, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, amplified Zamora’s comments, stating the state would benefit all around from an increased energy portfolio.

“Nevada has some of the nation’s best solar and geothermal resources, but the current renewable portfolio standard is not driving development, and it needs to be increased substantially,” Sullivan said. “Making Nevada a clean energy leader will diversify the state’s economy, create new jobs and improve air quality.”

Senate Bill 150

The Senate Committee and Commerce, Labor and Energy conducted a hearing March 3 on Senate Bill 150, sponsored by Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas.

The bill would provide a comprehensive structure for energy-efficiency programs offered by the state of Nevada and electric utilities.

Energy efficiency is using less energy to provide the same service — it is not energy conservation, which is reducing or going without a service to save energy, Spearman explained.

“Replacing a single-pane window in your house with an energy-efficient one prevents heat from escaping in the winter,” Spearman said. “So you save energy by using your furnace or heater less, while staying comfortable. Likewise, in the summer, the windows keep the heat out so the air conditioner does not run as often to save electricity.”

Although energy companies offer energy-efficient programs, Spearman said many in low- income households aren’t able to take advantage because of the initial cost.

Those living in affected communities, young and old, let their voices be heard about their support of SB 150.

“As a Latina from a family that’s always worked hard to get by, it’s very important to me that people have access to the same energy-efficiency options, regardless of where they live or what their income is,” UNLV student Iridane Sanchez said.

Tasca Miller, a member of Seniors United in Las Vegas, noted the importance of saving on expenses for those on fixed incomes.

“The overwhelming majority of seniors live on a fixed income, struggling to make ends meet as the cost-of-living rises,” she said. “Unfortunately this can even push some seniors into becoming homeless. This bill would help take some of that weight off seniors’ shoulders by giving them access to energy-efficiency programs that bring their utility bills down.”

Assembly Bill 223

The Assembly Subcommittee on Energy conducted a hearing on Assembly Bill 223 on March 1.

The bill would provide new and extended energy-efficiency measures for small businesses, seniors and others on fixed incomes, as well as low-income homeowners and renters. Improving utilities’ cost-effectiveness and reducing consumption of electricity are the bill’s goals

Some consumers could reduce their power bills by half, according to the bill, while the equity of energy-efficiency programs will grow by specifically reaching out to low-income residents who may not have been able to access older energy-efficiency programs.

AB 223, introduced by Assemblyman William McCurdy III, D-Las Vegas, would mean lower power bills for many, freeing up household money for spending on other items.

Advocates said more customers will use NV Energy’s energy-efficiency program offerings, resulting in increasing the equity of the programs and low-income households paying lower utility bills.

“A survey of households that received federal home energy assistance over a five-year period found that 47 percent went without medical care, 25 percent failed to fully pay their rent or mortgage and 20 percent went without food for at least one day as a result of home-energy costs.” McCurdy said. “I believe that we can fix this.”

Energy-efficiency incentives could also help create Nevada jobs in identifying and making these improvements for homeowners and businesses.

According to McCurdy’s presentation, households and businesses in Nevada can save up to $3.4 billion through greater commitment to energy-efficiency.

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