Nevada Panel Reviews Renewables Mandate

State receives 68 renewable energy project bids at prices lower than expected.

Published: 26-Dec-2001

An interim legislative body on Friday directed the Public Utilities Commission to rewrite rules for a program on solar, wind and other renewable power.

The Legislative Commission, which is composed of six assemblymen and six senators, told the regulatory agency that a rule it adopted violated the legislative intent of Senate Bill 372, the renewable power law.

The legislation requires Nevada Power Co. of Las Vegas and Sierra Pacific Power Co. of Reno to obtain increasing amounts of the power they sell from renewable power sources over the next several years. The PUC was charged with writing a regulation applying the law.

The regulation set a "soft" price cap for determining how much the utilities should pay for the renewable power on average but said it may approve contracts that exceed that average.

The Legislative Commission unanimously agreed to return the renewable power rules to the PUC so those caps can be removed.

"Our dilemma today is we have a regulation that we don't believe meets the legislative intent," Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, said. "It pretty much reverses what we did in the Legislature."

State Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, said the Senate and Assembly rejected proposals to put caps on renewable power prices.

However, at the request of Gov. Kenny Guinn, the Legislature gave the commission authority to determine whether renewable power contracts are "just and reasonable."

PUC Chairman Don Soderberg said it was difficult to set a "just and reasonable" standard because renewable power developers didn't provide the commission with data about the cost of producing electricity from sunlight, wind, hot underground water and biomass, such as agricultural waste and animal waste.

Soderberg acknowledged that developers may have been reluctant to release information for fear of giving competitors a bidding advantage. Since then, renewable power developers have submitted 68 renewable power proposals to Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific Power.

The utilities received two bids for projects involving biomass, 30 for geothermal or hot underground water, 18 for solar and 18 for wind.

The prices specified in the proposals were lower than the commission anticipated, Soderberg said.

The prices per kilowatt hour fell in the 10-20 cent range for solar power, said Dick Burdette, director of policy analysis for the PUC regulatory operations staff. Wind power cost was 4 cents to 5 cents per kilowatt hour.

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