Tuesday, April 14, 2015 | 2 a.m.
Utility companies nationwide offer programs that provide consumers incentives to buy new refrigerators, water heaters and air conditioners. Programs also encourage ratepayers to install high-tech thermostats and build homes with windows that provide heat, light and insulation.
Nevada currently offers a handful of such programs. But a bill encouraging NV Energy to expand its list of incentives has been defeated by Republicans in the Legislature.
The proposal, promoted by Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, asked NV Energy to boost incentives to ratepayers as a way to cut 1 percent from its total megawatt hours sold to consumers. The bill didn’t order NV Energy to cut the 1 percent. But it did say that if NV Energy made the deduction, the utility could recoup 105 percent of the cost of doing so.
The proposal would have led to a 6 cent rate hike per month for consumers, according to a fiscal note in the bill.
Consumer advocates say the hike may have amounted to 50 cents per month, but that the savings that ratepayers stood to gain in the long term would have exceeded the estimated bump in power bills. If NV Energy cut 1 percent, the savings would equal the annual use of electricity consumed by 25,000 homes annually in Nevada, according to the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, a nonpartisan think tank devoted to the issue. That would result in a savings of more than $450 million in ratepayers’ utility bills by the end of the decade, according to the group.
“It’s like losing body fat but gaining muscle,” said Tom Polikalas, a lobbyist for SWEEP.
NV Energy opposed the legislation but said it was planning to spend more than it ever has on efficiency programs in the upcoming year.
NV Energy spent $49 million on energy efficiency programs in 2014 and plans to spend $63 million in 2015.
Its current policy amounts to a .7 percent megawatt hour reduction annually.
“The current process works,” Judy Stokey, NV Energy vice president of government affairs, said during a hearing on the bill March 27. “We do not see a need for this legislation.”
The legislation asked NV Energy to cut 1 percent off the total number of megawatt hours sold in the prior year. Here’s what Southwest states were cutting in 2012:
• Arizona — 1.7 percent
• Colorado — 1.3 percent
• Utah — 1 percent
• New Mexico — 0.8 percent
• Nevada — 0.7 percent
What states spent on energy efficiency in 2013:
• Arizona — $125 million
• Colorado — $94 million
• Utah — $58 million
• Nevada — $37 million
• New Mexico — $29 million
Here are a few comparisons of NV Energy programs to those of Rocky Mountain Power, which operates in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming:
• Refrigerators — NV Energy will remove an old unit and pay $50 for it. RMP removes fridges and pays $100.
• Thermostats — NV Energy will install for free thermostats that automatically fluctuate with the temperature and can also be controlled by homeowners via computer or cellphone. By doing so, NV Energy does have the right to control temperatures in homes during peak demand. NV Energy said customers saved 140 megawatts of electricity at peak times during energy events, and the average savings was $100 per year. RMP does not offer the program.
• Washers, freezers, heat pump water heaters — NV Energy offers no incentives to buy new. RMP offers $50 for washers and freezers and $600 for heat pump water heaters.
• New home construction — NV Energy offers no incentives to homebuilders. RMP offers cash and other incentives to builders who install windows, heaters, air conditioners, insulation and other products certified by Energy Star, a federal energy efficiency program.
• Existing home upgrades — NV Energy offers no incentives. RMP offers money for new windows, air sealants and insulation.
• Pools and spas — NV Energy offers $250 rebate for a new pool pump. RMP offers $75.