May/June 2021 | Vol. 26 No. 3
by Steve Griffith, Industry Director, NEMA
The NEMA Rail Electrification Council (REC) has provided recommendations in the recently released 2021 Rail Plan of the Department of Transportation of the State of Nevada (NVSRP), explaining the benefits of electrifying rail transportation and employing
railroad right of way for siting electric transmission.
The REC rail electrification ideas reflect steps toward implementing the Nevada Governor’s Executive Order, which calls for “support for transportation electrification and demand management, including infrastructure, fleet procurement, alternative
funding mechanisms, and other programs.” The Federal Railroad Administration mandates state rail plans, but only one other state has ever raised electrification in its plan.
The REC recommended that Nevada begin examining an electrified rail system’s economic, operational, and environmental benefits in the plan.
Rail electrification in Nevada can contribute to:
- enhancing the efficiency of in-state and interstate supply chains
- fostering job creation via new freight transload facilities, warehousing, and industrial development particularly at mineral extraction sites
- improving the environment by reducing diesel emissions and promoting investment in renewable energy resources
- supporting the production and transmission of electricity, particularly renewable energy resources
The Nevada State Rail Plan is being formulated in a transportation and energy environment that is increasingly transformational. The plan lists three specific factors that call for a coordinated planning process among transportation providers, land and
energy developers, and utility companies.
First, freight rail traffic is inherently interstate, which is particularly relevant in the Southwest. Nevada is becoming an industrial, commercial, and trans-shipment hub for commerce serving surrounding states. Second, Nevada will affect and be affected
by national trends such as the rising public policy focus on climate change, public health, air quality, electrical grid integration, and the foreseeable electrification of highway transportation. Third is the advent of new technologies such as industrial-scale
batteries, energy storage, distributed electric generation, high-voltage electric transmission facilities, and fuel cells.
The plan also stresses the key issues of government guidance and support for rail electrification, supply chain disruption, interoperability, and cost that will need to be analyzed. It emphasizes that privately owned rail companies should be supported
in pursuing electrification as feasible, strategically smart, and in their long-term economic self-interest. The REC looks forward to supporting Connect Rail Nevada as it seeks to improve Nevada’s rail transportation, the States commitment to
clean energy production, and the state’s economic development overall. ei