NV Energy unveiled its new NVision Plan last week, a policy initiative that proposes shutting down coal plants and investing in new renewable energy and natural gas generation. On the surface, that sounds great – shuttering coal plants, reducing carbon emissions, increasing investment in renewable energy and creating jobs. All good things, right?
But as the old adage goes, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. The company’s NVision plan is no exception – dig a little deeper, and it doesn’t look so good.
First, and most troubling, NV Energy is attempting to bypass the Public Utilities Commission by going straight to the legislature with this plan. NV Energy’s plan doesn’t even give the PUC the authority to override it. This is bad policy and would set a very, very dangerous precedent.
The PUC has jurisdiction over regulated monopolies like NV Energy. It is explicitly tasked with balancing the interests of customers and shareholders of Nevada’s public utilities. That means before NV Energy can build any generation or transmission assets, they must justify the expense and need to the PUC. This involves a public process that allows consumer advocates, environmental advocates and other interested stakeholders an opportunity to challenge the utility’s assumptions, data, models and reasoning for the expense.
NV Energy’s proposed legislation would essentially bypass this process by asking legislators to make that decision – without having to go through hearings and stakeholder review. For a part-time, citizen legislators who meet once every two years for just over 4 months, it is unreasonable to task them with completing a thorough investigation into an energy resource plan, on top of balancing the budget and passing laws. This process typically takes the PUC many months, or even over a year to complete – this from a body that works full time on energy and utility issues.
While we fully support the legislature giving policy direction on building a cleaner, more prosperous energy future for Nevada – the specifics should be left to the PUC and a public stakeholder process.
What’s more, buried within the primarily utility-scale bill is a proposal to assess customers with rooftop solar a potentially hefty monthly fee, just for going solar.
On the substance of the plan – that NV Energy needs to build expensive and still polluting new natural gas resources to replace coal – there needs to be a public process to show that there’s a real need for those resources. Were not so sure that there is any real reason, other than an opportunity to make a profit off the backs of Nevada’s ratepayers.
If NV Energy is serious about getting rid of coal, reducing carbon emissions, creating local jobs and investing in homegrown renewable energy, then we fully support that effort. But it should not come at the expense of an open and transparent public review process at the PUC.
Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream.