NV Energy Invests in Renewables as Nevada Eyes Open Electricity Market

NV Energy

NV Energy has contracted for more than 1 gigawatt of new renewable energy resources to be built in Nevada, which the utility says is the largest clean energy investment in the state’s history. The resource plan filing requires PUC approval, and is contingent on a statewide ballot question to open the electric energy market.

The plan calls for six solar energy projects and three related battery-energy storage resources with 100 megawatts of capacity. If everything moves forward, the projects should be completed and serving customers by the end of 2021, NV Energy says.

“These six projects will be added to NV Energy’s current portfolio of 51 geothermal, solar, hydro, wind, biomass and supported rooftop solar projects — bringing NV Energy’s total renewable energy portfolio to more than 3.2 gigawatts of renewable energy in Nevada,” the utility said.

All the projects were selected through a competitive solicitation that began in January. Even though NV Energy signed PPAs for them, the utility can choose not to proceed if Question 3 on the ballot passes. Also known as the Energy Choice Initiative, approval of Question 3 would establish “an open, competitive retail electric energy market that prohibits the granting of monopolies and exclusive franchises for the generation of electricity.”

As GTM’s Julia Pyper points out, the push for a competitive electricity market in Nevada began after Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International paid NV Energy tens of millions of dollars in exit fees to purchase power independently. Kevin Haley, program manager of the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables Center, cited those exit fees during a session on integrated management at the recent Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference.

“That’s not a great answer,” he said, “but I bring it up as a good illustration of how far companies are willing to go to get what they want.”

Businesses that support Question 3 include MGM Resorts, Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Patagonia, Switch, Tesla Motors, and Walmart, according to Ballotpedia. A poll released by the Nevada Independent found that voters said they approved of the Energy Choice Initiative on a 54 to 16% margin, with 30% undecided.

In February, a group whose backers included NV Energy pledged to spend up to $30 million to defeat Question 3, the Nevada Independent reported. The renewable energy projects announcement, GTM’s Pyper wrote, is a sign that the Berkshire Hathaway-owned utility is taking steps to satisfy demands for cleaner and cheaper energy resources.

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