Independence day

What will it take for Nevada to become energy independent?

“We’re importing 90 percent of our energy from out of state,” says Energy Independence for Nevada founder David Gibson.

“We’re importing 90 percent of our energy from out of state,” says Energy Independence for Nevada founder David Gibson.

Photo By ashley hennefer

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“I’ve realized after several years of working in renewable energy related things that Nevada is just ripe for energy independence,” says David Gibson, founder of the aptly-named Energy Independence for Nevada. “Instead of doing that, we’re importing 90 percent of our energy from out of state, which is billions of dollars every year that’s leaving our state economy, rather than staying here and being spent locally.”

Gibson is also the community services director for Envirolution, a non-profit that works with local schools to incorporate sustainable research projects and curriculum. He started Energy Independence for Nevada back in November and set up a Facebook page this month.

“With my background in energy efficiency and renewable energy, I kind of realized that if no one else is writing this plan, then I was capable of doing that,” he says.

Gibson sees energy independence as an obtainable goal, and he has established four necessary steps to get the ball rolling.

“The first step is outreach and awareness, and making sure everyone in the state is aware that Nevada receives enough sunlight that we could power the entire United States, and that they understand how much opportunity there is for efficiency,” he says.

Efficiency and conservation are the second step, which includes energy audits and retrofitting for residential and business properties.

“At the home level, and throughout many businesses and buildings, there’s a lot of opportunity,” he says. “I’ve read many studies that say Nevada could reduce our energy consumption by 33 to 40 percent, which would right off the bat save us a third of the money we spend in energy bills.”

Gibson recently purchased a home with an energy efficient mortgage, which helps finance retrofits upfront. He was able to reduce his energy consumption by 60 percent, and cut his energy costs down from $6,000 per year to $2,500 per year. But although the mortgage program has been around since the early 1990s, he’s still just one of 12 households in the state who have participated. Compared to 2008, when no one enrolled in the program, Gibson sees it as progress, but notes the potential for economic growth. He’s set up workshops for realtors and loan lenders in order to get more information to potential homebuyers.

“There were approximately 20,000 homes sold with FHA loans in Nevada last year,” he says. “If even half of those completed energy efficient mortgages … that’s $75 million injected into our state economy instantaneously.”

The third and fourth steps involve installing on-site renewable energy resources, including wind, solar and geothermal, and subsequently, implementing grid-scale renewable energy through large projects.

“Ideally, everything will be on site,” he says. “Large grid-scale projects can also be used to export energy to California or Arizona or Utah.”

Gibson prefers to focus first on Reno with the hope that the city will lead the way for the rest of the state. He’s optimistic about the new City Council members, but also wants to see the State Legislature come on board. He looks to the examples set in other U.S. states, including New York and California, which have both launched state-wide sustainability programs this year.

“We need the Nevada governor and the State Legislature to come on board and say, ‘Here is our plan going forward,’” he says. “We need a concrete plan and a concrete timeline.”