In August, the U.S. Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to designate nearly $400 billion for energy and climate reform. Though not perfect, this package was widely considered the most consequential legislation ever passed at the federal level to fight climate change and is a good starting point to prioritize our natural resources. 

But passing the package was not a seamless process. In fact, many thought it would be scrapped altogether. While I was glad to hear the measure was signed by President Biden, the process and the bill’s shortcomings highlight the need to elect pro-climate state leaders across the country so states don’t have to wait for the federal government to take action against climate change. 

In this area, Nevada is already leading the way.

Thanks to strong state leadership over the last four years, Nevada has taken a bold, progressive approach to fight climate change, work towards energy independence and create clean jobs. Both the federal government and our fellow states should look to us for leadership on this existential issue. 

Nevada has been one of the states hardest hit by climate change — Lake Mead’s receding water levels and our major cities topping the list of fastest-warming places in the U.S. are prime examples. Nevada is also ranked the best solar economy in the nation, has the highest number of solar panels per capita in the country and is projected to reach the state’s goal of 50 percent of electricity generated by renewable energy sources by 2030. Plus, Reno became the first city in the country to measure its carbon footprint in real time. 

Investing in clean energy is not only the right thing to do — it’s a boon for our economy. As the owner of a solar company right here in Nevada, I am a testament to how investments in clean industries create jobs for our state. 

In total, the solar industry has invested nearly $8.3 million into our state economy. Currently, more than 7,000 Nevadans are employed by the solar industry and there was a nearly 17 percent employment increase in our solar sector from 2020 to 2021. This progress is just the beginning — investments in clean energy will diversify and improve our economy while protecting the environment at the same time.

States do not need to wait for the federal government to take action. When President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords in 2019, Gov. Sisolak joined the U.S. Climate Alliance and committed to the same list of protections.

The Legislature also passed one of largest energy-focused bills ever in Nevada, overhauling the way energy is produced and distributed across the state. This not only paved the way for more electric vehicles, solar panels, and improved power grids, but will also create thousands of clean jobs for Nevadans and move us closer towards energy independence. 

One of the major climate aspects of the IRA is helping people purchase new or used electric vehicles — a concept Nevada embraced in early 2020 through the Clean Cars Nevada initiative. This program provides Nevadans with more choices for low and zero emission electric passenger cars and trucks at dealerships to reduce pollution and protect public health. 

Legislation like this is a prime example that states have the power to make progress on climate well before the federal government. 

The IRA is an important step in the fight to combat climate change, but it will take state governments complementing federal efforts to actually make a tangible difference for generations to come. Other states should look to Nevada as an example of what’s possible, and model their progress off of ours. We only have one Earth, and we have to do everything in our power to protect our environment and leave it better than we found it.

Louise Helton is the founder and  vice president of 1 Sun Solar Electric, one of the oldest solar energy companies in Nevada specializing in residential and commercial solar installations since 2007.

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