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NV Energy intends to cut power to Mount Charleston during fire risk

NV Energy plans to cut power to Mount Charleston during certain conditions to reduce the likelihood of wildfires.

The company predicts about one power outage a year as a part of its new Public Safety Outage Management measure, with outages lasting anywhere from four to more than 12 hours.

“We’re invested in making this is absolute last resort,” Kevin Geraghty, the senior vice president of operations for NV Energy, said in a statement Tuesday.

NV Energy said changes in climate and the environment — which are resulting in an increased risk of wildfires — are prompting it to change its policies.

All customers in extreme fire-risk areas — including Mount Charleston, the eastern side of the Lake Tahoe basin and NV Energy’s Northern California transmission territory — would be impacted during a PSOM event.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Deanna Crossman, the owner of The Retreat on Charleston Peak. “Obviously we don’t want to put anybody in danger, but losing power unexpectedly — and possibly regularly — is a concern.”

Proactive measures

The utility plans to contact customers impacted by PSOM events at least two days in advance. Updates will be available through social media, news media and its website.

The outages are a concern for Crossman, who acquired the 64-room hotel with her husband last year.

“We can’t function without power,” she said. “We can’t sit without AC. People don’t take it kindly.”

She said the property is already looking into using alternative sources for energy, including wind and solar, since the business “loses power up to a day pretty regularly in the winter.” With the recent announcement from NV Energy, Crossman said finding a back-up source for power is a higher priority.

“We are hopeful they will take this process extremely slowly and ensure coordination with fire, police and utility services,” Crossman said. “Without power, Mount Charleston loses communication services, emergency contact, and many lose water without power for the well pumps.”

Safety measures

The utility said it will work with a weather analytics expert to determine when to employ a PSOM event. Weather conditions, the amount of vegetation in the area, wind gusts and speed, the location of existing fires and other information from first responders will all be factored in the decision.

The change comes after Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a Senate Bill 329 in May. The law calls for NV Energy to submit a natural disaster protection plan that includes shutting down power lines as a proactive measure.

The utility also plans to reduce fire risk by increasing vegetation management cycles, replacing wood poles with metal poles and installing more wildfire alert cameras in high-risk areas.

“The safety of customers, our natural resources and our electric system is NV Energy’s number one priority,” Geraghty said in the statement.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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