Paiute-NV Energy solar plant merits approval

For decades, the Moapa Band of Paiutes were neighbors to the coal-fired Reid Gardner power plant, jointly owned by NV Energy and the California Department of Water Resources. Needing replacement, in 2013 the Nevada Legislature worked with the Moapa Paiutes, the environmental community and NV Energy to ensure Nevada continues to utilize and optimize the state’s renewable energy resources. Today, we are on that path, and there is an important decision before our state regulators in furtherance of this vital goal, one that will protect Nevada’s citizens for decades to come.

The Moapa Paiutes, already the nation’s first tribe to build and operate a large-scale solar project on reservation lands, will host a second solar plant generating 200 megawatts of clean, reliable, solar energy-generated power. This is an incredible story happening in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District. The Moapa Paiutes, while working with and inspiring other leaders, are now taking energy choice into their own hands. Their solar project will create hundreds of jobs and become a lasting source of income for the tribe. They have taken a leadership role in becoming an example of how tribal communities can leverage clean energy for everyone’s benefit.

But this solar project still has to overcome one last big hurdle. In order for it to move forward, the Moapa Band of Paiutes needs to partner with a utility that can buy and distribute their clean power to consumers. Taking a new direction, Reid Gardner’s last remaining owner, NV Energy, wants to be that utility and has offered a proposal to the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada to do just that.

Last year, state lawmakers passed legislation that required the retirement of Reid Gardner and stipulated that 350 MW of renewable energy replace a significant amount of its power. In addition, NV Energy was directed to propose 550 MW of additional cleaner resources. Recently, it offered a plan to, in part, meet this demand by purchasing a 200 MW solar array to be constructed on the Moapa Band of Paiutes’ reservation. NV Energy’s proposal is commendable, and it will help the tribe while ensuring that requirements set for Reid Gardner are met and helping Nevada reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Today, the PUC will vote on NV Energy’s plan. If it is approved, NV Energy and the Moapa Band of Paiutes can move forward in bringing more clean energy online that benefits the tribe, NV Energy’s customers and the environment. If the PUC rejects this proposal, NV Energy will have to find other replacement capacity for Reid Gardner, slowing down the process and hampering a brave new partnership. Let’s not let that happen. Let’s replace a portion of the shuttered coal plant with a clean renewable energy project that will give the people most affected the economic development they need.

The Moapa Paiutes are at the forefront of being able to accomplish the unthinkable. They were able to bring both likely and unlikely partners to the table. Their story inspired environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Democrats such as myself and Sen. Harry Reid, and Republicans such as Gov. Sandoval to find a solution that would benefit not only the health of the tribe and its land, but also help position Nevada as a clean energy leader. Now, NV Energy wants to partner with the tribe. The PUC is the last stop on this very long journey. Saying yes to this plan is saying yes to progress, partnership and a clean, reliable, environmentally friendly future.

Steven Horsford, a Democrat, represents Nevada’s 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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