Published Monday, Sept. 22, 2008 | 12:11 p.m.
Updated Monday, Sept. 22, 2008 | 1:31 p.m.
Sierra Pacific Resources, parent company to Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific Power companies at the two ends of the state, announced today that it will change its name to NV Energy.
Although the two utilities merged in 1999 they have continued to operate under their old names for nearly a decade. The utilities will continue to be separate legal entities, both operating under the name NV Energy. Yackira said parent company Sierra Pacific Resources will ask shareholders today to approve its name change.
And while the name change was the subject of a press conference today at the company's Las Vegas offices, the real news was the company's decision to ask regulators to allow them to accelerate plans to construct a giant power line from Northern to Southern Nevada.
The line, which would connect the two utilities physically for the first time, was originally planned to carry power from a 1,500-megawatt coal plant in Ely to Las Vegas.
But Michael Yackira, president and CEO of Sierra Pacific Resources/NV Energy, said delays to the coal plant had forced the company to consider moving forward with the transmission line separately. The company will need regulatory approval to separate the two projects and Bureau of Land Management permission to build the line.
Yackira said NV Energy remains committed to the controversial Ely Energy Center coal project, but that it will probably not receive approval until 2015 or 2016.
An independent power producer, LS Power, also recently received federal approval to build a transmission line from the Ely area to Las Vegas. Yackira said the company has not decided whether it will contract with LS to buy transmission capacity on that power line.
He said there would be no layoffs as a result of the name change. The two utility companies already consolidated operations after announcement of the merger in 1999, he said. He said it was likely NV Energy would ask shareholders to approve a change of headquarters from Reno to Las Vegas, however. All but one of the company's officers was already working out of Las Vegas.
Sierra Pacific Power customers now pay more than Nevada Power customers, but Yackira said the name change would not result in higher rates for either company's customers.
The company would eventually save money on the merger, in fact, because it could reduce the number of regulatory filings it has to make each year.
Sierra Pacific Power and Nevada Power now have to file separate rate cases each year and will continue to have to file separately until the two companies are legally merged. Yackira said that could take several years.
In the meantime, the two companies will be able to consolidate advertising, billing paper stock and billing inserts to save money.
Yackira also said that the company would roll out a suite of new products for customers and is considering smart metering, peak pricing, bundled services and additional energy efficiency programs among them.
Under a peak pricing plan, which would need regulatory approval, customers would pay more for energy delivered during peak times of day, typically on summer afternoons, because it costs the company more to produce that energy.
California already has peak pricing, which is designed to more accurately reflect to customers the cost of producing power during different times of the day and encourage conservation during peak energy-use periods.
Yackira said customers would be encouraged to enroll in conservation programs as a way to keep their bills low and use less expensive peak-price energy.
Yackira also said that NVEnergy may someday export energy to other states, after it is able to meet its customer's needs entirely from power plants it owns.