At a peak generating capicity of 1,102 megawatts, the gas-fueled Edward W. Clark Generating Station near Henderson is one of NV Energy’s largest power sources. (Photo: Hugh Jackson/Nevada Current)
An NV Energy executive told Clark County commissioners Tuesday that a legislative mandate to ensure half of its energy is from renewable sources by 2030 “is going to be a challenge.”
“I’ll be honest,” said Jimmy Daghlian, vice president of renewable energy, during an update on the utility’s efforts to transition away from fossil fuels..“We’re seeing a lot of the costs go up. Battery prices have doubled in the last two years. Solar panel prices have gone up 40 to 50%.”
Daghlian added that the utility’s power purchase agreements are not being completed as scheduled because of cost concerns and permitting delays, leaving NV Energy “playing a little bit of a catch up game right now.”
The utility is also challenged with obtaining permits for facilities on federal lands, which make up 86% of Nevada. Daghlian says just one-tenth of 1% is designated as a solar energy zone. He says NV Energy recently won the bidding process for a $82 million solar energy zone “to streamline and accelerate our projects.”
“There’s going to be a lot of investment in the next five to 10 years to meet the RPS,” he said.
Earlier this year, NV Energy announced it exceeded the state’s requirement for 2022 that 29% of the electricity it sells come from renewable sources. “This is the 13th consecutive year that NV Energy has exceeded the state’s renewable energy requirement,” the utility said in a statement.
But in June, the Current reported the utility, in order to increase its renewable sales reports, was employing accounting measures that will soon be disallowed.
Commissioner Justin Jones asked Daghlian if there’s “some impediment to NV energy prioritizing solar” rather than building gas plants to meet peak demand.
“We can’t just build additional resources without justifying why we need to build it because ultimately our customers are paying for it,” Daghlian said, citing one impediment.
The second impediment, he said, is costs.
The Sierra Solar Project in Northern Nevada will produce 400 megawatts of power, he said. “That’s a $1.5 billion project. So how much can we invest? In this state we want to invest, but ultimately our customers are going to be paying for that.”
Daghlian said the utility’s integrated resource plan, to be filed next year, will “show big load growth which comes with big investments. …The green energy transition is going to cost some money and it’s going to be painful.”
NV Energy executive Carolyn Barbash said Greenlink, the utility’s $2.5 billion transmission line project, designed to improve reliability throughout the state, is 11 months behind schedule because of permitting issues.
Barbash cited the Bureau of Land Management’s review of federal and state lands for slowing the process, but noted it will generate $690 million in economic activity “just through the 10 years of construction” and “bring about 4,000 full-time jobs.”
Barbash said “a lot of economic development” is thinking about coming to Clark County, but NV Energy is unable to fulfill their needs. She asked county commissioners to educate the public “that energy infrastructure needs to get out ahead of the economic growth. Sometimes we may be needing to invest before the load is here.”
County commissioners voiced concern about solar energy producers in Nevada selling energy to California rather than to NV Energy for local use. The commission is drafting a resolution asking the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to prioritize local needs, while avoiding anti-competitive practices such as setting a quota.
Correction: The Sierra Solar Plant will generate 400 megawatts of power, not four, as originally reported.
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