Nev. solar power delay request denied


October 21, 2000 ( —The Nevada Legislature in 1997 told electric utilities to draw a minimum of one-tenth of 1 percent of their energy from solar power and other renewable resources starting Jan. 1.

Yet, Nevada Power Co. now says it has no source of solar and other renewable energy and asked the state regulators to delay adoption of rules.

At a meeting Friday, Public Utilities Commissioner Richard McIntire said no to Nevada Power. “I think we have to move forward. I think we’re supposed to move forward,” Public Utilities Commissioner Richard McIntire said at workshop Friday. McIntire told Kathleen Drakulich, associate general counsel for Nevada Power, he would consider allowing the utility’s compliance to be phased in.

Before the meeting, Nevada Power filed written comments, saying it probably will be unable to meet the deadline for the using renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. Nevada Power of Las Vegas and Sierra Pacific Power of Reno asked McIntire to delay rulemaking under the green power law until the end of the 2001 state Legislative session.

“I’ve never known an instance where you stop implementing a law, because at some time the legislature may change it,” attorney Jon Wellinghoff said before the meeting. Wellinghoff represents the Sierra Club, Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, Citizens Alert, the Green Energy Business Council, and Sunrise Sustainable Resources Group. They submitted proposed rules for implementing the green power law.

The law requires Nevada Power to obtain two-tenths of 1 percent of its electricity from renewable energy, including solar power and wind power, starting Jan. 1. The minimum increases each two years until it reaches 1 percent in 2008. After deregulation, competitors in the retail power market would be required to meet the same minimum requirements. Sierra Pacific Power Co., the electric utility serving Reno, is relying on its contracts for electricity from geothermal plants to avoid buying or generating additional renewable energy. Geothermal power is generated using underground heat.

Nevada Power has no arrangements to buy solar or other renewable power to satisfy the 1997 law. The utilities, which are subsidiaries of Sierra Pacific Resources, argued that the renewable power requirement was part of “the first piece of legislation that attempted to fully address (deregulation) of the electric industry in Nevada.” Drakulich, the utilities’ attorney, suggested the PUC postpone action on rules under the green power law. She claimed it is part of the state’s deregulation of the utility industry and Gov. Kenny Guinn has delayed the start of deregulation.

Rose McKinney-James, former chief executive of the Corporation for Solar Technology and Renewable Resources, lobbied for the legislation and offered a different interpretation. McKinnney-James said the green power bill was an amendment to the deregulation bill in 1997, but she said the start of deregulation and competition wasn’t a condition to the renewable power requirements.

McKinney-James said a phased-in approach, as McIntire suggested, would be a satisfactory solution to Nevada Power’s dilemma. The NTS Development Corp., a nonprofit group that promotes economic development at the Nevada Test Site, filed comments urging the commission to implement the law on January 1. The Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection called for penalties to ensure compliance with the renewable power law and recommended changes to the proposed regulation.

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