Las Vegas Sun

May 21, 2019

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Lawmakers prepare renewable energy goals for 2019 session

Finding Nevada: Searchlight

Steve Marcus

A view of electrical power transmission lines near Searchlight, Monday Jan. 20, 2014.

Voters will be considering several renewable energy questions on the ballot in November, and lawmakers are lining up priorities for bills that will help the state adapt.

The Legislature’s interim energy committee is looking at proposals that may become bills in the 2019 Legislature, such as setting uniform standards for contracts in a restructured market and creating pilot projects for programs that could give consumers greater choice. A group of experts has been evaluating bills vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval that call for community solar programs and a higher renewable portfolio standard in light of the state’s possible deregulation of its energy market.

Voters approved energy choice in 2016, and a second vote in favor in November would put the policy into law. A ballot measure this year seeks an RPS of 50 percent renewables by 2030, and another would spell deregulation of NV Energy’s monopoly. The Legislature, should Democrats maintain control of one or both chambers, is likely to consider community solar programs that allow apartment residents and others who may not have access to rooftop solar the ability to share in the benefits a local solar project.

Sandoval said in his veto messages on the issues that community solar might unfairly enjoy benefits of a utility without the regulations, and a higher renewable portfolio standard may be challenging should voters deregulate the energy market by approving Ballot Question 3. An executive order from the governor directed the committee on energy choice to examine possible conflicts with implementing community solar and a higher RPS in a deregulated market.

Legislative Director Matt Morris, representing the governor’s committee on energy choice, said the group is making 28 recommendations, many of which require action by the Legislature. There were no conflicts with energy choice, a higher renewable portfolio standard, and community solar, said Jennifer Taylor, of the governor’s committee on energy choice and chair of its working group on innovation, technology and renewable energy development.

“A renewable portfolio standard, even enhanced renewable portfolio standards, are not inconsistent with or in conflict with an open retail market,” Taylor said of data presented on the issues.

Marta Tomic, community solar program director for Vote Solar, said these types of programs work in a variety of markets, including those that are restructured.

Officials will decide how the proposals will become bill requests for the legislative session starting early next year, and which lawmakers or committees will propose them. Though a new governor will be in place for the 2019 session, it’s likely that many of the bill proposals from Sandoval’s office will move forward, Morris said. Committees and lawmakers can request a certain number of bills each session.

NV Energy is pursuing a plan with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada that calls for solar and battery projects throughout the state on the condition that energy choice fails. There are concerns that deregulation could harm consumers and raise prices.