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States, Utilities Step Up As U.S. Leaves Paris Climate Accord

Solar panels in Nevada desert
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Despite federal withdrawal from the Paris deal, Nevada is pursuing its own ambitious climate policy, based in part on the state's already robust solar industry.

The U.S. is now officially out of the Paris climate accord

Climate policy is mixed around the Mountain West, but many states are seeing action and a transition to renewable energy regardless of federal leadership. 

Last week, Nevada voters approved a renewable energy mandate that requires state utilities to operate on 50% renewables by 2030, affirming one of the most ambitious state-level emissions targets in the country. A statewide initiative launched this year aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Nevada also has one of the country’s most promising solar industries.  

“Regardless of where the U.S. goes with respect to the Paris accord, there [are] economic drivers with respect to climate action that just have a tremendous amount of momentum,” said Kristen Averyt, Nevada’s climate policy coordinator. 

According to a review by several environmental groups, Nevada will need to make significant strides to achieve its lofty goals.

Idaho and Wyoming have no renewable portfolio standards, but change is still afoot. 

“What is interesting in the case of Idaho is that we still see two of the major utilities have made 100 percent clean power commitments,” said Thomas Ptak, a geography professor with the University of Idaho. He’s talking about Idaho Power and Avista

Despite no state-level action, Ptak said that renewable transitions in Idaho are taking place at a regional and local level. The state’s most populous city is charting its own course on climate.  

Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico are part of the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of governors working to advance the goals of the Paris agreement even without federal engagement.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Beau grew up listening to public radio on the Palouse. He is a former host, reporter, producer and engineer for Montana Public Radio in Missoula. As a reporter, he is interested in stories that address issues and perspectives unique to living in the West.
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