Nevada’s future hinges on new energy infrastructure

The U.S. energy market is changing more rapidly and dramatically than anyone would have predicted. A steep decline in the price of solar-generated electricity, combined with the rising cost of coal and gas-fired electricity has turned energy economics on its head. This is particularly true here in the Southwest.

For example, solar+storage projects being built today are selling electricity below $25 per megawatt hour (MWh), and guaranteeing that price for the next two decades. By contrast, the price of natural gas generated electricity is roughly double that and projected to get more expensive over time.

This is a true game-changer here in Nevada, a state blessed with some of the strongest solar rays in the nation. That means this state has virtually limitless potential to take advantage of these new market realities.

The state legislature recognized this back in 2019 when it bipartisanly—and unanimously—adopted a renewable energy standard of 50 percent by 2030. Nevada lawmakers of all political stripes understand that transitioning from gas generation plants to much cheaper solar+storage means lower electric bills and more economic opportunity.

The only real question mark is the speed of that transition. Will it be slow and sporadic, beset by inadequate infrastructure and regulatory uncertainty, or will it—along with those associated economic benefits—speed along quickly with the necessary level of planning and investment?

As a fiscal conservative, I worry a great deal about the massive spending binge our nation has been on over the past few years. Too often, we seem to spend money on everything but the things we need most. Nowhere is that more apparent than in our neglect of infrastructure.

Despite all of that federal spending, we have not even kept up with the repair and maintenance needs of essential assets like bridges, roads, sewage treatment plants, and dams. Digging ourselves out of that backlog will take time.

With energy infrastructure, we simply do not have the luxury of time.

The choice is to either keep up with a rapidly changing energy market that promises to reduce energy costs and boost our economy, or fail to do so and be stuck relying on aging natural gas and coal-fired generation that becomes more costly by the day.

This new energy market offers incredible opportunity, but maximizing that opportunity requires additional transmission and distribution infrastructure, smart grid technology, robust security and resilience measures, and policies that foster more U.S. production of key components.

The energy picture is also changing rapidly for the transportation sector. Virtually every semi-truck manufacturer is rolling out all electric trucks. Companies like Walmart, Anheuser Busch, and UPS have already placed orders. UPS has also ordered more than 10,000 delivery vans. Amazon has ordered ten times that, deploying 100,000 over the next decade.

Beyond that, General Motors (GM) announced plans to produce only electric passenger cars and trucks by 2035.

This electrification of our transportation sector also requires additional energy infrastructure. Most importantly, a comprehensive nationwide network of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and deployment of ultra-fast charging capability (10-12 minutes).

While Nevada has smartly been adapting to these new energy market realities with new energy standards, grid expansion, and EV infrastructure, its efforts would be greatly helped by federal incentives and investments supporting these efforts.

Valid concerns about spending should not derail the smart energy investments contained in the pending infrastructure and reconciliation bills before Congress, as those will pay for themselves many times over in future economic development.

Nowhere is this more critical than solar-rich Nevada, a state that stands to benefit disproportionately from federal investments in the new energy market. That is why this state’s U.S. Senators, Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto, must help ensure that clean energy infrastructure is not a loser in reconciliation negotiations.

Without the necessary investments in energy infrastructure, this great new economic opportunity could crumble away—and far faster than the most neglected bridge or highway.

David Jenkins is president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, a national organization with more than 500 members here in Nevada.