Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., urged representatives from 12 western states at a summit on renewable energy Wednesday to develop a unified approach to energy policies.
"In Nevada, we've seen what can be accomplished in energy policy through collaboration," Reid said at the summit in Reno.
"The physical, geographic and resource similarities, along with the energy interdependence of the western states provide powerful reasons to examine how the western region might be better served if approaching energy policy as a group."
The one-day summit included policy makers, industry representatives, developers, utilities representatives, tribal leaders, regulators and advocates. The purpose of the forum is to develop an energy policy at both the regional and national levels.
Organizers said they hope the summit will result in the creation of a Western States Renewable Energy Council that would formulate energy policy recommendations.
Reid is a longtime proponent of harnessing geothermal, wind and solar power as an alternative to the nation's dependence on oil. He said a unified West would have maximum leverage in negotiating electric grid issues.
"The time is upon us to examine the role renewable energy could play in the western grid to help avert crisis such as the blackout experienced in August in the northeast," Reid said.
Officials unveiled two resource maps of Nevada - one detailing the potential for geothermal energy in the state and the other showing the state's potential to develop wind energy.
Similar maps have been developed for 12 other western states.
These high-detail maps are intended to help officials identify the best areas for evaluation and possible development of alternative energy.
Ten percent of northern Nevada's electricity comes from geothermal sources and planners expect that use to increase. It is estimated that Nevada also has nearly 7,000 megawatts of wind power available for development.
Every megawatt of power represents a $1 million investment of which 30 percent contributes to the local economy. Proponents estimate that Nevada could realize more than $2 billion in economic activity if its wind resources are utilized.
"Renewable energy is the future, but the future is not here yet," Reid told the Daily Sparks Tribune. "There are plenty of well-meaning people here but they need to do more than talk to each other, they need to exercise political power."