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Nevada must work to stay ahead of curve

Since the recession, the renewable energy industry has been a particularly bright spot in Nevada's economy. Nevada is a regional and national leader on clean energy, ranking third in the nation for solar jobs per capita, second in the nation for utility-scale geothermal energy production, and is generating enough wind power for 28,000 Nevada homes.

This success is no accident. Thanks to smart policy, the state's major utility must get a percentage of its energy from renewable sources. And thanks to efforts at the state and federal level — particularly from Gov. Brian Sandoval and Sen. Harry Reid — Nevada has paved the way for cutting-edge clean technology companies to make their homes here, bolstering our economy and protecting the environment at the same time.

Now it's time to ensure Nevada leaves nothing on the table when it comes to developing its green economy.

Gov. Sandoval has taken a good next step, once again proving he is a powerful advocate for an energy independent future. Joining the Governors' Accord for a New Energy Future and appointing new members to the New Energy Industry Task Force are down payments on the development of green jobs for the next decade in Nevada. The bipartisan accord provides a platform to engage with other states to share best practices and lessons learned, and to form new partnerships that advance smart policy changes and a shared priority of growing our clean energy economy. And the task force sets the stage for a thoughtful policy discussion about how to empower a renewable energy economy during the 2017 legislative session.

Another opportunity to cement Nevada's leadership in the clean energy economy lies ahead. The U.S. Supreme Court recently delayed implementation of the Clean Power Plan, a national effort to transition the country from polluting fossil fuels to clean, renewable power. But that's no reason for Nevada to put the brakes on now.

Between closure of the Reid Gardner coal plant and state law requiring the utility to get a quarter of its power from renewables by 2025, Nevada is already well-positioned to meet the goals of the CPP ahead of schedule.

The Supreme Court's ruling doesn't change the equation. Gov. Sandoval understands the economic, environmental and health benefits of transitioning to 21st century energy sources. Developing and deploying cleaner and more efficient energy solutions will make our state and national economies more productive and resilient. And as the governor has said, staying ahead of the curve on CPP planning means Nevada will avoid a one-size-fits-all federal plan and "provide Nevada with the best opportunity to … utilize the state's portfolio of clean energy resources." In other words, while others wait, Nevada will continue to lead.

And Nevadans overwhelmingly support a transition to renewable energy sources that create jobs and diversify our economy.

Investing in a clean energy economy works. The state's $500 million investment in tax incentives for clean energy development has yielded a 10-to-1 return. Since 2010, these incentives have attracted more than $5.5 billion in capital investment in clean energy construction — including wind, solar and geothermal projects — to our state, creating high-paying jobs for Nevada workers.

Moving forward with CPP could yield similar results. In addition to the $54 billion in health and climate benefits — such as better air quality and improved public health — the CPP is expected to deliver more new investments in every state through the transition to cleaner fuels.

Gov. Sandoval recognizes the economic potential in becoming a regional hub for development of cutting edge renewable technology. So regardless of the outcome in the courts, Gov. Sandoval should keep Nevada on track to remain a leader on clean energy.

— Sig Rogich is President of The Rogich Communications Group and a former U.S. Ambassador to Iceland.

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