Las Vegas Doesn’t Use 100% Renewable Energy

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

Reading recent media headlines, you’d think all of Las Vegas was being powered by solar panels and wind turbines. But that’s just not true.

So don’t think the famous Las Vegas strip is power by the sun. Not only is that not part of the City of Las Vegas, it’s still using fossil fuels to get a big share of its energy. But you might miss that fact by skimming media headlines.

A slew of media outlets, including USA Today, are running headlines like, “Las Vegas Now Runs Completely on Renewable Energy,” or, “Las Vegas just became the largest US city to run on 100% renewable energy.”

Those headlines may obscure the fact that it’s only city-owned buildings and equipment — a small fraction of overall energy consumption by Las Vegas — that’s supposedly running on green energy. Most of the city still relies heavily on natural gas for electricity and oil for cars.

“Las Vegas is now the largest city in the country to run entirely on renewable energy,” Popular Mechanics reported, before correcting it to, “Las Vegas’ City Government Is Now Powered Entirely by Renewable Energy.”

The City of Las Vegas itself added to the confusion, by announcing they’re “now one of the few cities of the world that can say all the power we use comes from a green source.”

“With natural gas generating four times the electricity of renewables for the state, it isn’t mathematically possible for Las Vegas to be running entirely on renewables. Per EIA data Las Vegas runs primarily on natural gas,” chemical engineer Robert Rapier wrote in a Forbes article debunking the Vegas green energy hype.

“This is a major accomplishment for the Las Vegas city government, but it is important to note that its energy consumption is a tiny fraction of the overall city,” Rapier wrote. “To suggest that Las Vegas is running entirely on renewable energy presents an utterly false picture.”

It’s also unclear if Las Vegas government facilities are actually powered by green energy or if officials simply buy enough “renewable energy credits” (RECs) to match their use of fossil fuel energy.

Big tech companies like Google have promised to go 100 percent green in their operations, but that’s done mostly through buying RECs. That’s because electrons from solar panels are put onto the grid with all the electrons from coal and natural gas plants.

Las Vegas city government invested $70 million on energy efficiency and green energy projects. The city says it saved $5 million a year since 2008 and also claims it cut its energy consumption by 30 percent.

That’s a 14-year payback period. Las Vegas is eight years in, and has six more to go.

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