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May 26, 2015

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Senate committee considers bill aimed at lowering NV Energy rates

There are bills floating around in the Legislature to raise the rates of electric users in Nevada, but a Senate committee considered a plan Saturday to reportedly reduce rates for customers of NV Energy.

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy that his bill would be beneficial to consumers.

Hardy said there were a “lot of moving pieces” referring to other energy bills and added, “I don’t know where all the pieces will come together.”

NV Energy is required each year to sell to its customers a certain percentage of renewal energy such as solar, wind and geothermal power. The utility can produce or buy this renewal energy.

Senate Bill 339 would permit the utility to sell part of its excess renewal energy credits to other states.

Representatives of NV Energy said that with certain changes in the bill, the sale of the excess renewal energy “will be credited to utility customers and will offset fuel and purchased power costs.”

Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas and chairman of the committee, previously said he did not want to see customer rates increase based on bills in the Legislature.

The staff of the state Public Utilities Commission completed a study in March that found the average family in Las Vegas is paying an extra $19.71 a month because of laws passed by the Legislature. In Northern Nevada, the extra cost is $15.

NV Energy has outlined a plan to speed up closing of its coal-fired Reid Gardner plant and the eventual building of a natural gas-powered facility. But that could raise rates by up to 4 percent.

Advocates of renewal energy are proposing that 35 percent of the power sold to consumers must be in solar, wind or geothermal by 2025. The present law say only 25 percent must be in renewal energy by that date.

Opponents say renewal energy costs are higher and that consumers pay the price.

For this year and 2014, NV Energy must provide no less than 18 percent in renewal energy sold to consumers. The utility has met that goal and has excess renewal power credits.

Bobby Hollis of NV Energy said the Hardy bill would give the utility the flexibility to sell the excess renewal power to other Western states if the price was right, and it would be able to recover its costs. “This measure will assure that the sale is overall beneficial to the customers,” the utility said in its prepared testimony.

The committee did not take action on the measure. Atkinson said the various plans must be “melded together.”

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