Nevada will miss greenhouse gas emission goals at current pace, state report says

Nevada will miss greenhouse gas emission goals at current pace, state report says
Emission reductions from clean energy development are projected to be outpaced by rising emissions from tailpipes and industry. (Photo: Jeniffer Solis)

by Jeniffer Solis, Nevada Current

CARSON CITY–Nevada is missing its targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and is even seeing a reverse of progress, with increased emissions in the transportation, industrial, and residential and commercial sectors.

The state’s latest emissions report warns the state is not on track to meet its 2030 goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions if no additional action is taken by the state and local governments, said the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Governor’s Office of Energy Monday.

Without additional action Nevada’s emissions will fall 6% short of the 2025 goal and 21% short of the 2030 goal as rising emissions from vehicle tailpipes and the industrial sector outpace any progress in reductions.

Emissions from growth in the residential and commercial sectors are also expected to increase from 12% to 17% by 2041, driven by projected population and economic growth. 

The annual report, as mandated by the Legislature, notes that Nevada is on track to meet its goal to increase the percentage of renewable energy sold to Nevadans to 50%. But those gains are not enough to help Nevada achieve its emissions goals as transportation and industrial emissions rapidly grow. 

Transportation emissions are currently Nevada’s greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Analysts say that reaching Nevada’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 will require major changes to the state’s transportation systems, including shifts in travel patterns and personal transportation choices, according to the report.

In 2020, the Nevada lawmakers passed a bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero or near-zero within the next three decades, a goal consistent with the Paris Agreement. However, meeting those standards will be determined by whether or not the state implements new policies and programs, says the report.

The report argues for a “two-pronged” strategy that could dramatically lower transportation emissions by reducing personal transportation demand in urban areas while significantly increasing the percentage of low- and zero-emissions vehicles on Nevada roads.

Investing in mass transit by expanding regional transit services through increases in trip frequency, service areas, and improved reliability while also providing greater incentives to increase transit service use would reduce the number of vehicles on the road, adds the report.

The report also recommends adopting California’s Advanced Clean Truck Program to reduce engine emissions and increase electrification of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles could also help lower vehicle emissions. 

Other states have already successfully implemented a multi-pronged approach to transportation by “building modern, low-emissions, climate resilient transportation systems while also accelerating consumer adoption of clean vehicles and alternative transportation options,” say analysts. 

The report also recommends that Nevada prioritize infill and smart growth instead of sprawl to meet new development demands.

Several new policies and programs are recommended in the report to reach emission goals, including regulations on construction materials so that low-carbon materials are used in new construction and retrofits, establish “electric ready” requirements for homes to support EV charging, and funding investments in clean energy like low-interest loan programs for clean energy improvements.

More stringent controls on emissions from oil and natural gas exploration, production, and distribution systems should also be considered, says the report, including considering environmental justice as a factor when assessing buildings. 

Last year an analysis by the research firm Energy Innovation — based on a state-specific version of the firm’s “energy policy simulator“— also found that without additional action Nevada’s emissions will actually increase 12 percent by 2050 as fossil fuel use outpaces solar power and electric vehicle growth.

The independent analysis by Energy Innovation found that retirement of coal plants, like the Mohave Power Station and Reid Gardner Generating Station, has helped electricity emissions in the state to decline by 60 percent since 2005, however, transportation emissions have continued to increase, accounting for 41 percent of the state’s emissions in 2019.

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