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November 22, 2017

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NV Energy surprised by Switch lawsuit, calls its claims baseless


Steve Marcus

Exterior view of the NV Energy building Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, in Las Vegas.

NV Energy plans to defend itself against a $30 million lawsuit filed by Las Vegas-based data company Switch, arguing that the complaint includes “baseless claims” against the utility and its employees.

The statement comes after Switch filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court against NV Energy and its regulator, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada. Switch alleged that the utility commission had failed to treat the company fairly last year when it applied to leave NV Energy and purchase renewable power from the open market. The lawsuit, which lists 14 causes of action, including deceptive trade practices and civil conspiracy, implicates NV Energy and names two top utility executives.

“Switch is a very important customer to NV Energy, and given how far we thought we had come over the past two and a half years of working with their team on a variety of issues and opportunities, we are surprised and disappointed with this turn of events,” NV Energy spokeswoman Jennifer Schuricht said.

Among the allegations are that a former lawyer for the PUC and the NV Energy executives “agreed either explicitly or tacitly to act in concert to unlawfully influence the Switch (exit).” The lawsuit says actions were taken to “unlawfully retain Switch as a customer of the monopoly NV Energy and impair renewable energy development in the state of Nevada, all while unlawfully enriching NV Energy."

Switch sought to leave NV Energy in 2014 and purchase power on the open market to fulfill a corporate pledge to use only renewable energy. At the time, Switch said it had been negotiating a contract with a solar company, which had offered a good price for wholesale renewable power. But utility regulators blocked Switch from leaving NV Energy in 2015, prompting Switch to negotiate a deal with the utility.

Under that deal, Switch agreed to pay a premium so it could receive 100 percent renewable energy.

Switch claims it pays more now than it would have paid had it purchased renewable power without NV Energy. Switch is arguing that the agreement to stay with NV Energy stemmed from unfair behavior by utility regulators and an effort to keep Switch as a utility customer, resulting in the enrichment of NV Energy. Switch is asking for at least $30 million in damages and for permission to leave the utility.

The PUC declined to comment. NV Energy said Wednesday that if served, it will fight the allegations. “We will vigorously defend our company and our employees from baseless claims,” Schuricht said.

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