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December 12, 2017

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Trio of bills could boost Nevada’s clean-energy economy

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Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

Rooftop solar panels are seen atop the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Aug. 26, 2015.

Three major clean energy bills were passed through their respective committees this week at the Nevada Legislature to get them a step closer to becoming law.

Assembly Bills 206 and 223 and Senate Bill 150 were passed with amendments this week before Friday’s first house passage deadline.

A report carried out by ICF International and commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council indicates the bills could increase Nevada’s renewable energy and energy efficient share, drawing up to $3.3 billion in capital investments.

That number is largely based off AB206, which would increase the renewable source to 50 percent by 2030, according to Dylan Sullivan, senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council. The current renewable portfolio standard is 20 percent, and NV Energy has hit that threshold each of the past seven years.

“The 50 percent by 2030 renewable portfolio standard is a big change from where the state is at right now, and we just wanted to be able to answer the question of is this going to cost money, how much and what would be some of the benefits,” Sullivan said.

The state’s clean energy and energy-efficiency economy employs more than 20,000 people — 8,371 in solar alone — and that number would grow under the Assembly bill, advocates say.

“At that level of capital investment you would see jobs in solar project development, in project construction and maintain products over time,” Sullivan said. “There would also be more renewable energy manufacturing jobs, too.”

Adding more renewable energy options would also eliminate some of the fossil fuels imported to Nevada. The state spends $700 million annually for out-of-state natural gas for its power plants, and depends on natural gas for 73 percent of its electricity production, according to the study.

Josh Molina, owner of Makers and Finders Coffee, said it would be a big deal for businesses of all sizes.

“Businesses are very excited about what this can mean to Nevada,” Molina said. “From large multinational corporations, to small mom-and-pop businesses, we are all looking forward to the exciting prospects that the proposed clean energy laws can bring to our state.”

The bill would raise the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 50 percent by 2030, with a goal of 80 percent by 2040.

The bill was granted a waiver on Wednesday, allowing it to pass through Friday’s deadline.

Bill sponsors said employment in the clean energy sector would increase as Nevada meets demand from large companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon for their hubs in the state. Upping the renewable portfolio standard would aid the clean-energy economic expansion supported by Gov. Brian Sandoval and legislative leaders.

• • •

Senate Bill 150 would provide a comprehensive structure for energy-efficiency programs offered by Nevada and electric utilities. The Senate Committee and Commerce, Labor and Energy passed an amended version of SB150 to the Senate floor Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, would provide a comprehensive structure for energy-efficiency programs offered by Nevada and electric utilities. Energy efficiency is using less energy to provide the same service — it is not energy conservation, which is reducing or going without a service to save energy.

Although energy companies offer energy-efficient programs, many in low-income households aren’t able to take advantage because of the initial cost, advocates say.

The amendments included:

• Removing the requirement that only the utility cost test be used to determine cost effectiveness, and requires the Public Utilities Commission to account for non-energy benefits of energy efficiency programs and plans.

• Removing the definition of the utility cost test.

• Clarifying the legislative findings and declarations.

• Requiring the Public Utilities Commission to set energy savings goals for the utility, and requiring the utility to create an energy efficiency plan that is designed to meet or exceed the goals set by the commission and is cost effective. The commission shall approve an energy efficiency plan that accomplishes these objectives. Unless the commission determines the plan would not be cost effective, it is also required to approve a plan that provides at least 5 percent of the total expenditures directed to energy efficiency programs for low-income customers.

• Deleting a section regarding the payment of incentives to the utility for meeting energy efficiency goals.

• • •

Assembly Bill 223 would provide new and extended energy-efficiency measures for small businesses, seniors and others on fixed incomes, as well as low-income homeowners and renters.

The Assembly Subcommittee on Energy passed an amended version on AB223 Wednesday, moving it through Friday’s committee passage deadline.

The bill would provide new and extended energy-efficiency measures for small businesses, seniors and others on fixed incomes, as well as low-income homeowners and renters. Improving utilities’ cost-effectiveness and reducing consumption of electricity are the bill’s goals.

Some consumers could reduce their power bills by half, according to the bill, while the equity of energy-efficiency programs will grow by specifically reaching out to low-income residents who may not have been able to access older energy-efficiency programs.

The bill, introduced by Assemblyman William McCurdy III, D-Las Vegas, would lower power bills for many, freeing up household money for spending on other items.

Advocates said more customers would use NV Energy’s energy-efficiency program offerings, resulting in increasing the equity of the programs and low-income households paying lower utility bills.

Energy-efficiency incentives could also help develop Nevada jobs in identifying and making these improvements for homeowners and businesses.

Households and businesses in Nevada can save up to $3.4 billion through greater commitment to energy efficiency, according to McCurdy.

The amendments revised the definition of “cost effective” to allow the PUC to select the test it will utilize to assess an energy efficiency plan or program. The amendment also specifies how energy efficiency and conservation programs apply to residential customers, instead of retail.

The amendment allows the PUC to accept an energy efficiency plan consisting of energy efficiency and conservation programs that are not cost effective, if the energy plan as a whole is cost effective.

Additionally, any order issued by the PUC accepting or modifying a plan or plan amendment must specifically direct at least 5 percent of the total expenditures to energy efficiency programs for low-income customers.

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