Solar energy, energy storage, and even autonomous electric vehicles were all part of the discussion at the National Clean Energy Summit 9.0: Integrating Innovation, held at the Bellagio Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, NV on October 13, 2017. Hosted by Senator Harry Reid and NV Governor Brian Sandoval, this year’s conversation was focused on the integration of clean energy into urban and rural communities, the transportation infrastructure, the built environment, and security. In addition, James Stillings, documentary and fine art photographer, shared photographs from his project, Changing Perspectives, which features aerial photography of renewable energy development in the American West and around the globe. The practicality, feasibility, and economic growth of clean energy were discussed at high levels with examples of how the cost of a clean kWh can be comparable and even less than the cost of traditional energy in today’s marketplace. The lineup of speakers brought representatives from across the country including the Navajo Nation, Massachusetts, and Hawaii. The well-rounded discussion opened with a presentation from former Vice President Al Gore, a long time champion of clean energy, and closed with comments from a panel of Governors who shared how their states are investing in and benefitting from clean, renewable energy. Hawaii Governor, David Ige, shared that his state is committed to a goal of 100% renewable energy for electrical production, which will keep more money in the state through the creation of clean energy jobs. Hawaii is already producing about 23% of their electricity from renewable resources, a state that was dependent on fossil fuels for 95% of its electricity just six years ago. Governor Charlie Baker from Massachusetts shared his state has 1,800 megawatts of installed solar with 1,700 megawatts of offshore wind energy currently under development. Massachusetts is also investing in energy efficiency and plans for 70% of their streetlights to use LED lighting by next year.
In an opportunity to speak with NV Governor Brian Sandoval at the summit, Energy Tree posed three questions. We first asked the Governor of his views on developing a hydrogen infrastructure for the transportation industry and he said he would have to defer to the experts on this topic as they are currently focused on finishing the NV electric highway. The electric highway is set to be completed in January 2018 and will fully connect Nevada’s northern and southern residents for interstate travel in an electric vehicle. Governor Sandoval was also asked for his opinion on the correlation between renewable energy and STEM education and he responded that they certainly go together, stating, "That's why we're investing in new engineering schools at both UNR and UNLV." In addition, we also asked the NV Governor if he thought renewable energy would play a big part in the indoor agriculture industry, such as hydroponics and aeroponics, and he replied, “How could it not. I think they work together.”
This year, during Nevada's 79th legislative session, nearly a dozen bills directly related to clean energy were passed and signed by Governor Sandoval. One bill, Assembly Bill 405, created the Renewable Energy Bill of Rights for all Nevadans and encourages the creation of new job opportunities in the state through the immediate reestablishment of the rooftop solar market. The solar market in Nevada was halted in early 2016 with a change in net metering policy that reduced the return on investment for customers investing in solar energy, which resulted in the loss of thousands of clean energy jobs. This new law protects Nevadans who invest in solar energy and provides for the advancement and development of renewable energy using the natural solar resources of the state. As Governor Sandoval finishes his last term in office, he has conveyed that his time as Governor of Nevada has been backed by a strong devotion to promoting clean energy and in helping Nevada lead in the growing clean energy economy.