Fast-actin' Nevada lawmakers just slowed solar

Well that was fast. Yesterday I blogged about a bill that emerged on the last day of Nevada's legislative session - AB 498 - which would remake a 2013 law negotiated by the legislature, Governor Brian Sandoval, and the state's large investor-owned utility, NV Energy, to transition from coal to clean energy. The Assembly and Senate both had to pass the bill by midnight, and unfortunately, sometime after I went to bed at around 10:30 p.m., they did; unanimously.


Yes. It turns out the bill had an almost ideal constellation of support:

  • Big energy users, like the Wynn casino resort and the data center company Switch, who are trying to leave the NV Energy system and buy electricity on the market
  • NV Energy, which provides electricity to "1.3 million customers throughout Nevada and nearly 40 million tourists annually"
  • NV Energy's regulator, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission.

Why did the stars so align?

  • Some big energy users in Nevada want to stop buying electricity from NV Energy, and instead buy it on the market, where prices are currently low. But when they leave the NV Energy system, they have to pay exit fees intended to make NV Energy and its remaining customers whole for the power contracts big customers will no longer help finance. If NV Energy is relieved from inking new contracts for renewable energy projects, these big customer exit fees will be lower.
  • NV Energy says that they do not need extra power plants right now, especially with all these customers trying to leave. (But if that's the case, why did they not just tinker with the portion of the 2013 agreement that requires the utility to buy or build generic power plants, renewable or natural gas).
  • The Nevada Public Utilities Commission gets more authority to challenge new renewable energy contracts. Who doesn't like more authority?

What's next?

You saw the cartoon: Governor Sandoval can choose whether or not to sign the bill. We urge the Governor and his advisors to look closely at the impact the bill would have on renewable energy developers and the state's carbon dioxide emissions. Nevada will soon have to show progress in reducing these emissions under the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, which sets the first-ever limits on this climate-changing pollution from existing power plants. Deciding to not build 150 megawatts of solar would make reducing emissions more difficult.

Stepping back a bit, we now have big customers - who have stated that their desire to exit the NV Energy system is partially driven by their desire to buy more renewable energy - actively arguing against renewable energy procurement. Advocates like NRDC will be looking for these big customers to match their commitments to their green rhetoric as they attempt to exit the NV Energy system.