Happy New Year!
I predict 2006 is going to be an exciting year in politics. One of the "hot topics" I'll be talking about in my bid to be your next Governor is energy.
Currently, energy production in the United States falls far short of meeting national needs. We are increasingly dependent on foreign oil, which makes us vulnerable to international political pressure. The price of natural gas is going up, so the price of electricity is skyrocketing. Greenhouse emissions are destroying our environment and contributing to global warming. And here in Nevada, we have to import fifty percent of our power from other states, putting our dollars to work for someone else.
In a recent speech before the Nevada Development Authority, former President Bill Clinton addressed this issue. He pointed out that Nevada is uniquely situated to lead the country in addressing energy needs by developing the state's sources of renewable energy. This would help Nevada and the country, he said, by preserving the environment, creating good jobs, and improving homeland security.
I agree that we must focus on renewable energy, approaching it not as a novelty but as an integral part of our energy network. Nevada has solar, wind, and geothermal resources that could be harnessed for the good of Nevadans: creating high tech jobs, providing economic development opportunities for rural counties; bringing down the price of electricity for all consumers; and cleaning the air we breathe. It just makes good sense.
We have another resource beyond what nature gives us: the brain power located in our universities. Cutting-edge research on renewable energy is going on at the Desert Research Institute, the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. A look at our home campus, UNLV, is eye-opening. Faculty researchers are working on hydrogen fuel, solar energy, and wind power in the College of Engineering's Center for Energy Research. The Center's director, Robert Boehm, received the 2005 Rufolf W. Gunnerman Silver State Award for Excellence in Science and Technology for his work on solar power and other renewable energy sources. UNLV has received over $35 million in federal research grants over the past three years for renewable energy research.
One recently-publicized project is the Zero Energy Home, a public-private
partnership involving UNLV's Center for Energy Research, Nevada Power, Pinnacle Homes, and others. In this project, two identical homes were built side by side—one using normal sources of power and the other employing new technologies and construction techniques designed to cut power usage to zero or below, allowing the owner of that house to sell excess power it generates to the power company. This ground-breaking Zero Energy Home shows what we can achieve.
Over the years I have championed numerous measures in the legislature to promote renewable energy development and use. These include tax credits to businesses to open solar and wind farms; green pricing options for those who wanted to purchase renewable energy off the grid; net metering opportunities which allow people who produce extra solar energy in their homes to sell it back to the power company; using solar water heaters in weatherization projects; and a portfolio standard that requires power companies to generate a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources.
These are good first steps but we can and should do more. In the first hundred days of my administration as Governor, I will hold a renewable energy summit and invite participants from the industry, from power companies, from rural development agencies, and from Nevada's university system. Together we will forge a plan to move Nevada into the forefront of this critical field.
This article appeared in Vegas Voice January 2006