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Boosting Nevada’s in-state power supply remains lawmaker’s goal

Updated May 26, 2023 - 6:05 pm

A much anticipated bill that calls on NV Energy to create more in-state energy generation was introduced Friday in the Nevada Legislature.

Assembly Bill 524, sponsored by Assemblyman Howard Watts, D-Las Vegas, was granted a waiver so that the usual deadlines won’t apply to it. It will be first considered by the Assembly Committee on Growth and Infrastructure, which is chaired by Watts.

The bill, if passed, would have the Legislature declare that it’s in the best interest of the state to improve “affordability, availability and reliability of its electric supply.” Other main features of the bill relate to changes in the planning and rate-making processes for electric utilities.

NV Energy, Nevada’s largest electric utility, said it “is reviewing AB 524 and will provide a statement later.”

The bill would require a utility to ensure it has adequate resources to meet the energy needs for the next 10 years while reducing reliance on buying energy on the open market.

“We’re asking the utility to put forward a bold plan quite a bit to close their market exposure,” Watts previously told the Review-Journal.

The bill would direct a utility to focus on energy generation from renewable resources like solar, geothermal, hydropower and wind. It doesn’t include any provisions for the acquisition of natural gas, despite a March executive order from Gov. Joe Lombardo that urged a “balanced approach” to energy acquisition, which included energy from natural gas.

It’s estimated that in 2022 that 56 percent of Nevada’s in-state energy generation came from natural gas while 37 percent came from renewable resources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Watts said in an interview that he’s had conversations with the executive branch over the bill and said there is “some alignment” with the governor’s energy policies. However, he said that overall he worked on the bill independently from the governor’s office.

“There are aspects of this that line up with some of the the governor’s policy objectives as well, which we’re continuing to support our local clean energy economy, continuing to diversify our energy sources,” Watts said. “We’re extremely reliant on gas power generation. So by moving to a mix of different clean energy resources and storage, I think that that is diversifying our energy mix.”

The governor’s office didn’t return a request for comment.

The Nevada Conservation League called the proposed legislation “a balanced, consumer-friendly energy bill that will close loopholes.”

“AB 524 will improve the resource planning process by bolstering commitments to clean energy and energy efficiency measures while ensuring reliability and affordability for customers,” said Christi Cabrera-Georgeson, the league’s deputy director.

The bill also drew praise from the non-profit Western Resource Advocates, which called it a “great first step.”

“The measure ensures that all stakeholders have greater opportunity to understand a utility’s plans before resource decisions are made, and that ratepayers are only paying for the most cost-effective and reliable resources that advance Nevada’s GHG (greenhouse gas) emission reduction goals,” said Hunter Holman, the Nevada clean energy manager for the group, in an emailed statement. “We look forward to building on the foundation that this bill creates by working with other parties and the PUCN to continue modernizing the electric resource planning process in Nevada.”

Currently electric utilities have to file detailed plans for their electric resources — known as an Integrated Resource Plan — as well as general rate cases every three years. The bill would allow utilities to file their plans and rate cases more frequently.

The bill would require an electric utility to create more detailed reports for the integrated planning process, which would include more information around the costs of construction or acquisitions of energy resources, whether a resource is utility-owned or contracted to the utility, and whether that resource can increase its access to carbon-free energy.

The bill also would make a utility hold a consumer session for each Integrated Resource Plan filed or for any amendments to a filed plan.

Contact Sean Hemmersmeier at shemmersmeier@reviewjournal.com. Follow @seanhemmers34 on Twitter.

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