It’s officially been a week since the November 6th 2018 midterm elections, and the renewable energy landscape has changed. Let’s take a look at the most notable highlights.
The majority of Nevada voters voted in favor of Question 6, which requires electric utilities to obtain 50% of their electricity from renewable sources (including solar energy) by 2030. Prior to this vote, Nevada’s RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard) would have required only 25% of electricity to be derived from renewable sources by 2025. The initiative passed with 59% of voters in support of Question 6—a substantial win for Nevada’s renewable energy industry.
On the other hand, Nevada voters rejected Question 3, an initiative that would have given customers the right to choose their energy providers from an open, competitive retail electric energy market rather than forcing them to purchase electricity from electrical-generation monopolies. It would also have given individuals and businesses the right to produce their own electricity.
In Nevada, constitutional amendments like Question 3 need to be approved at two successive general elections. Voters approved Question 3 by a wide margin in 2016, but rejected it last week, many believe due to relentless attack ads by the Coalition to Defeat Question 3, a powerful PAC funded primarily by NV Energy, Nevada’s largest electrical energy monopoly.
Arizona’s renewable energy efforts hit a setback last Tuesday when Proposition 127 was rejected by voters. Like Question 6 in Nevada, Prop. 127 would have mandated that 50% of Arizona’s energy come from renewable sources by 2030. Currently only 15% of the states energy comes from clean sources like wind and solar power.
Ironically, Arizona’s climate could not be more ideal for renewable energy—particularly solar energy. Arizona is the sunniest state in the U.S. which would guarantee a flourishing solar energy industry, creating thousands of jobs and providing virtually unlimited clean energy for the state.
But, while Proposition 127 has failed, a ray of hope shines through as Arizona regulators are still considering a proposal to increase Arizona’s renewable energy contribution to 80% by 2050.
Portland voters approved an innovative way to promote local renewable energy development. They passed Measure 26-201, which creates a 1% business licensing surcharge for Portland companies with annual revenues over $1 billion.
This is projected to create a $30 million annual fund from which community non-profit organizations can apply to receive grants to install solar and energy efficiency upgrades in under-served areas, provide green job training, and help fund other community environmental projects.
Washington state failed to pass Initiative 1631, a carbon tax. The Carbon Emissions Fee Measure, would have set a carbon fee of $15 per ton in 2020, rising to around $55 per ton in 2035, depending on inflation. Some could argue that the “No” vote indicates Washington voters’ reluctance to get behind a carbon tax at this time. But it may also have simply come down to spending. Initiative 1631’s supporters spent about $12 million to advance the measure, while its opponents spent more than $25 million.
On the brighter side, another sunny state - in this case Florida - passed Amendment 9, (“Ban Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling and Ban Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces”)
The amendment added the following text to Article X of the Florida State constitution:
“(c) To protect the people of Florida and their environment, drilling for exploration or extraction of oil or natural gas is prohibited on lands beneath all state waters which have not been alienated and that lie between the mean high water line and the outermost boundaries of the state’s territorial seas. This prohibition does not apply to the transportation of oil and gas products produced outside of such waters. This subsection is self-executing.”
The passing of Amendment 9 indicates a further commitment by Floridians to keep their state clean and beautiful and indicates a willingness to further explore renewable energy alternatives to fossil fuels. A perfect place to make significant progress in renewable energy is maximizing on Florida’s open, sunny clime with increased use of rooftop solar panels.
Climate-Friendly Governors Take Office
Also notable and inspiring are five newly-elected state governors who have stated positions in support of clean energy and climate policy.
Maine - Janet Mills
Nevada - Steve Sisolak
Michigan - Gretchen Whitmer
Kansas - Laura Kelly
Illinois - J.B. Pritzker
The 2018 midterm elections returned generally mixed results, but progress for renewable, clean energy sources was made. And there are indications that voter awareness is growing for the environmental and personal benefits of increased renewable energy use. Now is the time to be heartened by the wins and to renew our efforts to turn last week’s setbacks into future wins.
We should also not forget that solar panels are already a very attractive and cost-effective renewable energy source. Businesses and homeowners don’t need to wait for legislative changes or better incentives or lower solar pricing to take advantage of rooftop solar panels for their current and future electrical energy needs.