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Utility Dive: Nevada regulators set to approve NV Energy’s $2B IRP amendment, including new gas resources

Posted by Robert Walton on Mar 1, 2024
In an interview, Utility Dive talks with Advanced Energy United Director Brian Turner on how the Nevada PUC is set to approve NV Energy's 5th Amendment to its 2021 Integrated Resource Plan. 

Nevada regulators could vote today to approve about $2 billion in spending for NV Energy, including new gas, solar and battery resources which critics say should have received more scrutiny and could have been cheaper.

The utility’s proposal calls for $83 million to repower the Valmy coal plant with natural gas, $54 million for pollution controls at the Tracy gas plant, and about $1.5 billion for a 400-MW solar+storage facility NV Energy would own and operate. Staff of the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada have recommended regulators approve smaller amounts for the gas projects. 

The Valmy repowering project is a “bait and switch,” said Brian Turner, a policy director at Advanced Energy United. NV Energy’s 2021 integrated resource plan included solar generation to replace its last coal plant, but when the projects fell through the utility proposed the gas repowering through an “amendment” process that critics say requires less oversight. 

Nevada lawmakers overhauled the utility IRP process last year, changes Turner said will ultimately provide greater scrutiny of resource procurement — but the law did not go into effect before NV Energy filed its fifth amendment to its 2021 IRP in August.

The new law allows the utility to file an IRP more frequently than once every three years, as state law previously mandated. 

A fourth amendment to NV Energy’s 2021 IRP was approved last year and included a $333 million gas peaker plant.

“The size of this [fifth] amendment dwarfs the original IRP, so it kind of highlights the problems with the amendment process,” Turner told Utility Dive. “It’s one last egregious example able to get in under the wire.”

Turner also said NV Energy’s procurement process is “anemic” when it comes to competition, leading to expensive utility-owned projects. The utility does issue requests for proposals “on a regular basis, but they’re not specifying what they’re looking for,” he said. “There’s no regulated process for that RFP. There’s no transparency, there’s no certainty for developers, so they have very few bids.” 

Stakeholders have expressed interest in establishing a “bright line” for what monetary or capacity changes to an approved utility plan would trigger the need for a new IRP, Turner said.

NV Energy did not immediately respond to questions. On Wednesday, the utility said it was requesting a rate increase but expected customers to be paying about 10% less for energy by the end of this year. 

“While the company is requesting an increase in this filing, average customers’ bills statewide are still projected to be lower than they were in 2023,” NV Energy said in a statement.

NV Energy is targeting net-zero carbon emissions by 2050; its next IRP is due June 1.

“That’s one of the tragedies of this process,” said Turner. Nevada regulators will likely approve $2 billion in costs “with an abbreviated, insufficient analysis, three months before they will get a full IRP with full analysis and the full range of options possible.”

Read the full article here. 

Topics: Regulatory, United In The News, Nevada, Brian Turner