Last month, the Nevada Clean Energy Fund named Kirsten Stasio as its founding executive director. Created after the state legislature passed Senate Bill 407 in 2017, the Nevada Clean Energy Fund will be the first “green bank” in the state.
“The ‘Green Bank’ is an institutional model that has been used in over a dozen US states and the formulation of it has been contemplated at the national level as well,” Stasio said. “Green banks address clean energy market gaps and financial barriers by educating both investors and market stakeholders about clean energy investment opportunities.”
Aside from engaging stakeholders on investment opportunities, green banks like the Nevada Clean Energy Fund will directly facilitate financing for clean energy projects as well.
“The primary tool that green banks use is the direct provision of financing, whether it be low- or no-interest loans for installing energy efficiency measures in homes or working with small businesses to provide that lending capital as well,” Stasio said. “Green banks also engage in market development activities, like providing technical capacity building or developing new financial models for investing in clean energy.”
Stasio’s background is particularly suited for the broad nature of the role, which requires engaging stakeholders across a variety of sectors.
“I worked at an energy investment firm scaling investments in wind, solar, and energy storage projects across the US, including a few projects in Nevada,” Stasio said. “At the World Resources Institute, I worked directly with policymakers to develop climate finance policies. Then while receiving my graduate degree at Stanford, I worked to advance clean energy and climate solutions at both Apple and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).”
Having worked in the clean energy industry for over a decade now, Stasio has already witnessed the industry evolve and gain momentum over the years.
“Throughout that time, the cost of clean energy technologies has come down precipitously, to the point where they are incredibly cost-competitive with their more carbon-intensive alternatives,” Stasio said. “There’s so much potential for growth for clean energy in Nevada and I’m really excited to help Nevadans capture that potential, and in so doing realize the significant economic, health, and climate benefits that will result.”
Still in the early stages of its founding process, Stasio already sees several opportunities for the Nevada Clean Energy Fund to advance clean energy initiatives in the state.
“Some key areas to focus on are energy efficiency opportunities in disadvantaged, rural, low-income and tribal communities, as well as small businesses and nonprofits,” Stasio said. “But other measures in the home like beneficial electrification and getting access to electric vehicles are some examples of initiatives that we can engage in with disadvantaged communities and segments of the market that have been underserved.”
While clean energy has gained a greater market share with the continued development and cost-reduction of technologies, such as wind and solar energy, battery storage, and electric vehicles, most of the realized benefits have only been accessible to wealthier communities.
“Disadvantaged communities often get overlooked by traditional clean energy investors and markets because the energy savings associated with a bigger home that has more square footage and a higher utility bill is going to be a lot greater than [the savings for] a smaller home,” Stasio explained. “The other big challenge with implementing energy efficiency measures comes with renting. With renters, there’s a split-incentive problem where the landlord is typically the one who would invest the capital to do a home energy upgrade like installing a more efficient heating and air conditioning system, but the tenant is the one who reaps the benefits of that measure. So homeownership and renting becomes part of the wealth and poverty divide as it relates to clean energy.”
Green banks like the Nevada Clean Energy Fund, however, are designed to fill the gaps and provide financing to overcome the barriers preventing clean energy initiatives from taking hold in underserved communities.
“When it comes to technology advancements, low-income populations often get left behind because the check size is too small, so it’s not as attractive to traditional financing institutions,” Stasio said. “That’s why clean energy opportunities have largely been accessed by wealthier portions of the population, with things like rooftop solar panels or electric vehicles. So that’s why green banks target underserved populations and disadvantaged communities, whether it’s because they’re low-income, rural, tribal, people of color, etc.”
While green banks can serve disadvantaged communities in a myriad of ways, Stasio recognizes a particular opportunity as it relates to energy storage at the community level.
“Energy storage can provide so many different benefits to the electricity grid and its users,” Stasio said. “Reliability is one benefit, particularly for communities living in remote locations, where electricity service might be a little spotty, or as we’re increasingly seeing in California, community energy storage is becoming critical as power shut-offs coincide with the increased frequency of wildfires. Energy storage can ensure that lights stay on even as the sun goes down or the winds stop blowing.”
Establishing energy storage resources at the community level would also provide a foundation from which more opportunities for other clean energy initiatives can be generated.
“Energy storage at the community level can help more and more customers adopt electric vehicles, because that’s increasing the power demand,” Stasio said. “So rather than invest in costly upgrades to the distribution system, you could then install an energy storage device at the community level to help manage the increase in electricity demand that results from more widespread electric vehicle adoption.”
The adoption of clean energy sources may likely prove inevitable too, particularly due to its increasingly lower cost.
“Solar and wind are the cheapest [energy sources] in terms of dollars per kilowatt-hour,” Stasio said. “That’s why we’re seeing them grow so quickly across the US, because just by investing in clean energy resources, you get energy savings. Clean energy has also been one of the fastest-growing, if not the fastest growing sectors of the economy in Nevada over the past several years and so it’s a great source of economic growth overall, as well.”
Stasio cites the growing prominence of Nevada’s energy sector as being one of the driving forces behind the state’s economy, as found in the Clean Jobs Nevada 2020 report released in March 2021.
“Nevada is a leader in geothermal and solar electricity generation,” Stasio said. “The energy sector in Nevada employs nearly 34,000 people in the state, which is just over 3% of jobs and that number is growing quite quickly.”
The growing energy sector is developing alongside Nevada’s role as a clean energy leader in the region, as well.
“Nevada’s clean energy policies have been very progressive and in many ways they have a fairly aggressive, renewable portfolio standard of meeting 50% of its electricity needs with renewable energy by 2050,” Stasio said. “Nevada is on track to meet that goal.”
However, she admits there is still room for improvement when it comes to attaining other climate-related goals and aspirations.
“Nevada released its 2021 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Report and one of the key findings was actually that Nevada’s current policies aren’t sufficient to reach its GHG reduction targets,” Stasio said. “But that’s one of the reasons why the Nevada Clean Energy Fund is so important because we can help bridge the gap between current policies and accelerating clean energy growth to limit warming to levels that are safe for humanity.”
Consequently, Stasio is excited to facilitate more clean energy opportunities in Nevada and its surrounding region through her new role at the Nevada Clean Energy Fund.
“Historically, Nevada has been a leader in clean energies like geothermal and solar,” Stasio said. “That has really well-positioned the state to not just produce renewable energy for itself, but also to help provide clean energy to its neighbors as well. So I’m definitely looking forward to engaging stakeholders as the first green bank in the state to help all Nevadans access the economic cost-saving opportunities, as well as improve health, environment, and climate across the state.”
Scott King writes about science and the environment for the Sierra Nevada Ally. He has a Master’s degree in Media Innovation from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a Bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing with a minor in Marketing from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. Scott served for two years as a literacy instructor with the Peace Corps in the community of Gouyave, Grenada. Support his work.
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