By Casey Coffman
A recent Tribune op-ed by Thomas Mitchell, Question 6 Would Cost Money and Provide No Benefits, contains a lot of inaccurate or misleading information from the Heartland Institute—a group that has close ties to fossil fuel interests.
Heartland continues to perpetuate well-worn myths about renewable energy that have not resembled reality for a very long time. Not only is Heartland’s claim about higher rates false, the exact opposite is true.
Diversifying Nevada’s energy mix with solar and other renewables will stabilize our energy prices, now and for the future.
It is simple math. Right now it is cheaper to generate electricity with solar and wind than it is with the out-of-state natural gas that currently makes up 75 percent of this state’s electricity generation.
Furthermore, many experts expect the price of natural gas to double over the next decade. We simply cannot afford to get three fourths of our electricity from a globally-marketed fuel that is going to double in price.
The price of solar and wind energy, however, is only getting cheaper.
For example, the planned 300 megawatt Eagle Shadow Mountain Solar Farm in Clark County will provide 180,000 Nevada homes with electricity for $23.76 per megawatt-hour (MWh)—and that price is locked in for 25 years. Electricity from a new combined-cycle gas plant, by comparison, would cost at least $47 per MWh, and would be subject to price increases due to natural gas price fluctuation.
In neighboring Arizona, A 100-megawatt solar farm is going up that will include four hours of battery storage capacity for nighttime usage. It will provide power for $36 per MWh, still significantly cheaper than gas. And much-needed energy storage is only getting cheaper.
The stability in electric rates that renewable energy offers is an important driver for businesses considering a move to Nevada. Much of the Fortune 500 now has specific renewable goals for their operations. Many of these businesses look for places to expand with access to renewable energy as a priority. If Nevada does not offer what they demand, Nevada is likely to get passed up for these opportunities.
If Nevada is to pursue the jobs of the future, we must build the energy infrastructure of the future.
Right now, tens of thousands of Nevadans work in the clean energy industry, far more than in the fossil fuel industry. Passing Question 6 will serve to solidify and expand those job opportunities. It will give businesses the certainty they need to invest further in their workforce—and in Nevada’s future.
Question 6 is about affordable and stable electricity prices. It is about workforce development and economic growth. It is about reducing our vulnerability to out-of-state gas price increases and maximizing the abundant resources we have here in Nevada.
Nevadans cannot afford to let myths spread by fossil fuel peddling interest groups, like the Illinois-based Heartland Institute, deny us the secure, low cost, energy future that saying YES to Question 6 will bring.
Casey Coffman is a Reno-based solar energy professional with experience in residential and commercial solar project development.