Amendment cuts green energy Nevada utilities must buy
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – A ”green energy” bill, amended to meet GOP Gov. Kenny Guinn’s demands that it go easier on major Nevada utilities, won final legislative approval for a second time Sunday.
The Assembly unanimously voted for SB372, following Senate approval on Saturday. The bill now returns to Guinn, a former utility executive, who could have vetoed the first approved version but instead shipped it back to lawmakers for revisions.
SB372 is designed to kickstart the green-energy industry by incrementally boosting the amount of energy that Nevada utilities must buy from from solar, wind and geothermal sources.
But as amended on the second go-around, SB372 reduces the amount of such power that the Nevada utilities must initially buy.
The amount of renewable energy now required in a utility’s total energy portfolio is just 1 percent. Under SB372, that will gradually increase to 15 percent – one of the best standards in the country.
However, the revision gives the utilities credit for geothermal energy they’re already purchasing – a provision Republican lawmakers had failed to get included the first time through the Legislature.
The result will be a cut from 5 percent to about 1 or 2 percent in new ”green” power the utilities will have to buy in 2003, when the portfolio standard law takes affect. The 15 percent total must still be achieved by 2013.
The amendment also cuts in half the amount of solar energy the utilities must purchase.
Tim Hay, the state’s consumer advocate, said the amendment hurts the state’s ability to attract companies that produce environmentally friendly energy.
”The economic incentive is derived from the size of the possible projects,” Hay said. ”The major players in renewable energy are going to think twice before coming to the state.”
But Senate Commerce and Labor Chairman Randolph Townsend said the revised plan still helps Nevada’s green-energy industry.
”When we analyzed what was on the books to be built quickly, we found out that the only way that (the utilities) could meet the current standard in the bill, before it was amended, was to buy from out-of-state renewable resources,” Townsend said.
”That wasn’t the goal of the bill. The goal was to jump-start the industry in the state.”
The amendments also say the state Public Utilities Commission must determine that a utility’s contract for renewable power is ”just and reasonable.” And all of the ”just and reasonable” costs incurred in the deal can be recovered from ratepayers.
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