Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015 | 2 a.m.
The Beacon Hill Institute, a conservative think tank backed by the Koch brothers, released a report Monday condemning a new, $1 billion natural gas plant proposed by NV Energy.
The institute, based at Suffolk University in Boston, said building the new plant could cost consumers $604 million by 2025 and that a new power plant could cost Nevada more than 1,600 jobs and $18 million of private investment.
The Nevada Policy Research Institute, which opposes shutting down coal-fired power plants in exchange for solar and natural gas generation, hired Beacon Hill to do the study.
Environmentalists have criticized Beacon Hill as a “front group” for the Koches, but Victor Joecks, NPRI executive vice president, defended the study, saying that the data came from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. “The proof is in the pudding,” he said.
NV Energy hopes to phase out its use of coal entirely and have one quarter of its electricity generated from renewable sources in the next decade. Natural gas power plants emit less air pollution than coal-fired plants and can intermittently pick up slack for renewables.
The power company has signaled it will end a contract with Star West Generation, a company that owns a natural gas power plant in Arizona that provides energy to the grid during Nevada’s hottest months, in exchange for building a plant of its own.
The power plant battle highlights the strange bedfellows created by energy policy in Nevada. It coincides with controversies over rooftop solar and casino companies pushing to purchase and create power without the utility. It also comes as the utility receives more scrutiny for over-charging consumers and sending its profits to its parent company Berkshire Hathaway Energy.
Joecks said there was a groundswell of support in the state for consumers to have more options for electricity. “They are coming from all directions,” he said.
Bryan Miller, Sunrun's senior vice president of public policy & power markets, said a desire for competition united “this strange group of bedfellows.”
“Whether it's casinos seeking competition in how they buy power, developers seeking competition in building power plants, or homeowners seeking competition by generating their own electricity from rooftop solar, Berkshire Hathaway's NV Energy is opposed to competition in all forms."
NV Energy spokeswoman Jennifer Schuricht, in response to the study, said, "Our current integrated resource plan does not seek approval of a new gas-fired generating station. Instead, it seeks approval of only the minimal expenditures that will preserve options to meet the needs of our customers."