Editorial: Nevada should drop its renewable energy mandate

Spring Valley wind farm

It is high time Nevada dumped its ill-advised, pocket-picking, job-killing renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS).

By Nevada law by 2025 fully 25 percent of all electrical power generated in the state must come from renewable sources such as wind and solar and geothermal, but these power sources are far more expensive than generating power with natural gas and coal.

Nevada is not alone in its decision to warp the power market under the delusion that “cleaner” power will stop the rising seas and delay by a few minutes the frying of the planet — 28 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted RPS laws.

Natural Resource Economics’ researcher Timothy Considine recently delved into the economic impact of these laws in 12 states, including Nevada. The 98-page report has been posted on Nevada Policy Research Institute’s website.

Those 12 states included ones in four regions of the country. — the Northeast and

Mid-Atlantic states of Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Delaware; the South Atlantic states of Virginia and North and South Carolina; the Midwestern state of Wisconsin, and five western states, including Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and Oregon.

Of all those states, Nevada has the most stringent RPS and therefore was impacted the greatest in most cases.

Considine notes that RPS requirements not only directly affect power bills, but also everything from job growth to business investment is also negatively affected by more costly power. The benefits of renewable energy are far outweighed by that cost.

“Looking at Nevada specifically,” Considine writes, “the net cost of

renewable standards are striking:

“— Energy prices are expected to climb by nearly 15 percent in 2016.

“— Employment growth will be reduced by more than 11,000 jobs in 2016 due to higher energy costs.

“— Economic growth will be reduced by more than $1.7 billion in 2016.

“The impact of such renewable standards is clearly dramatic — draining vitality out of Nevadans’ efforts to fully recover from years of sluggish economic growth.”

And those impacts are projected to continue, with minor declines in impact, until at least 2040.

That 15 percent increase in power costs was the highest of any of the 12 states examined, and remains among the highest through 2025. The number of jobs killed is also the highest, when calculated as a percentage of the current labor force.

Every job sector in Nevada would see jobs lost due to higher costs, except one, utilities, of course. The service sector, which includes gaming, would be the hardest hit, bearing two-thirds of the job losses.

In 2013, Nevada generated more than 36.4 million megawatt-hours of electricity, with 68 percent coming from natural gas, 14 percent from coal, slightly more than 7.3 percent from geothermal, and 7.4 percent from hydroelectricity — much of the latter used by California. Solar power accounted for 2 percent of total generation and wind contributed 0.7 percent.

The study calculates that in order to meet its RPS, Nevada must increase its solar and wind power output by more than 87 percent.

“The increases in average electricity costs from new RPS capacity additions are 32.85 percent in 2016, rising to 37.58 percent in 2020, 37.33 percent in 2025, and 21.32 percent in 2040,” Considine relates. “With legacy costs average electricity rates in Nevada increase 14.77 percent in 2016 due to renewable energy portfolio standards. After 2016, rates increase 15.6 percent in 2020, more than 15 percent in 2025, and 9-13 percent from 2030 to 2040.”

The total cost per ton of carbon dioxide avoided in Nevada amounts to nearly $77 a ton. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the social value of carbon reduction to be about $36 per ton.

Is this trip really necessary?

A version of this editorial appeared this past week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Newspaper column: Federal agencies stall oil and gas exploration

One of the major reasons the state Legislature passed Assembly Bill 227 this year — setting up the Nevada Land Management Task Force to study the possible transfer of certain federal public lands to the state of Nevada — was the need for economic development.

Pump Jack in Nevada

In a recent interview, Elko County Commissioner Demar Dahl, chair of that task force, offered an example of the problems being encountered with federal land agencies that deter the creation of jobs and economic development. He said Noble Energy of Houston came into Elko County and did seismic exploration all over the area. They went before the County Commission said they had five hot spots in the world and Elko was one of them, as reported in this week’s newspaper column available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

“As they were trying to get ready, they figured out that 90 percent of everything north of the freeway in Elko County is off limits for oil and gas. Then they came in and were ready to start setting up a drill rig on the third week of August, but three weeks before that the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) said, ‘Oops, we’re sorry but we forgot to consider the viewshed from the California Trail.’” Dahl recounted. “So they said it might take a year to a year and a half to do the EIS (Environmental Impact Study) on the viewshed. …

“You see how progress and development are held up by, for instance, them worrying about the wagon trains, I guess, that’ll be coming down the California Trail right along parallel to the interstate and the railroad. You can’t look off to the right and see a pump jack or something. Those are the kinds of things that are waking people up thinking maybe we really need to make a change.”

As if on cue, on Sept. 17 a professor of Energy Economics at the University of Wyoming, Timothy Considine, came out with a study called “The Economic Value of Energy Resources on Federal Lands in the Rocky Mountain Region.”

In Nevada alone, Considine estimates oil and gas projects on public land could generate tax revenues of as much as $218 million and create as many as 21,797 new jobs — as many as 200,000 jobs in the seven-state region.

Total oil production in Nevada has been declining since 1990.

Read the entire column at the Ely or Elko sites.