Pahrump OK to join California power grid

An electric co-op in Pahrump has received the go-ahead to join a nonprofit power-management corporation in California.

The board of the California Independent System Operator Corp. voted unanimously Thursday to bring on the Valley Electric Association, which has 23,000 members along the Nevada-California state line.

The Western Area Power Administration currently has operational control over Valley Electric.

Valley Electric officials say they want to connect with the California operator because linking the co-op’s 360 miles of existing transmission lines to the Golden State’s grid would let it ship renewable energy there. California law calls for the state to get a third of its power from renewables by 2020.

Valley Electric and the California Independent System Operator have a memorandum of understanding on the transition process, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must approve the deal. Valley Electric and the system operator say they expect the transition to be effective on Jan. 1, 2013.

Not everyone’s happy about the deal.

Former Nevada Gov. Bob List is a principal in a company that’s roughly two years into federal permitting on a 122-mile power line that would connect the Amargosa Valley north of Pahrump to the Southern Nevada substations that send power to California. The company, Solar Express Transmission, is raising financing and says its line could go live in 2014 or 2015.

Valley Electric wants to build a competing transmission line, and it could put the co-op on the hook for at least $200 million — a huge investment for a small association, List said on Aug. 18.

Valley Electric officials say they hired third-party consultants to study the financial implications of joining the California system. Those analyses showed members would come out ahead through lower operating costs.

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at
jrobison@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512.

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