Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2019

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Commission denies NV Energy request to buy power from solar projects

In a 2-1 vote, the state Public Utilities Commission has rejected NV Energy’s plans to buy electricity from two companies planning to build solar powered plants in Clark County.

Commission Chairwoman Alaina Burtenshaw said more information is needed from the utility on the projects’ costs and what they mean for consumers.

The commission directed NV Energy to resubmit its application within 90 days with the required information. Commissioner Rebecca Wagner said the utility has not met its burden of proof.

The 90-day requirement, Wagner said neither is burdensome nor requires a “rocket scientist.”

Commissioner Luis Valera cast the dissenting vote saying he feared it sends the wrong message about Nevada in the long term.

After the decision, NV Energy issued a statement that said: “The new and extensive requirements that have been ordered may inhibit renewable energy development in Nevada.”

The utility said it has supplied the same information since 2007 for projects that have received commission approval.

NV Energy has an agreement to buy electricity from the Spectrum Solar plant, which is to be built 20 miles north of Las Vegas by Fotowatio Renewable Ventures. The plant would supply power for more than 7,000 homes.

The utility also has an agreement with Next Era to buy power from the Mountain View Solar Project.

Witnesses said the denial would have a chilling effect on Nevada’s ability to attract new industry. And they said it would mean the loss of hundreds of construction jobs.

Burtenshaw said she appreciated the witness testimony, but the commission must base decision on the record developed during hearings and submission of exhibits.

Spectrum Solar would employ 300 construction workers, Mountain View would employ about 250 such workers. Median annual salary on both jobs would be $52,000.

The commission’s order said witnesses for the Consumer Protection Bureau demonstrated the price of electricity acquired through the solar contracts would be equivalent to electricity produced at a natural gas plant.

The order said NV Energy must present “a more complete picture” as to how fixed prices from the solar energy projects “hedge against future spikes in the price of conventional generation resources.”

The commission did approve an NV Energy contract to drill a geothermal well in Churchill County. It will employ up to 200 workers during construction.

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