What to look for in upcoming PUC hearings

It seems oddly appropriate that the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has scheduled three days of highly contentious hearings just before the Thanksgiving holidays, because the regulatory board certainly has a full plate on its menu. Here are three key flashpoints to keep an eye on

1.) Net Metering: Big Solar will be out in force trying to protect government and ratepayer subsidies for its industry. The big issue is how much NV Energy will be forced to pay rooftop solar customers for the excess electricity those homeowners generate that NV Energy neither needs nor wants.

The system in place now is akin to you and I being able to force Starbucks to buy, at a retail price, the excess coffee we brew at home.

NV Energy’s position is that if it’s going to be forced to buy excess home-brewed electricity it should be allowed to purchase it at a wholesale rate, not retail.

There should be a strict limit on how much home-brewed electricity it should be forced to buy.

2.) Exiting the Grid: Three large casino/resort companies want to leave NV Energy and buy cheaper electricity from competitors on the open market. Sounds like a simple issue for free-market conservatives, but there are two problems with this request.

One, if the mega-resorts are allowed to break their contract with NV Energy, you and I are going to be stuck with the bill for all the unused electricity NV Energy is contractually obligated to purchase that the resorts will no longer be buying.

Secondly, while it’s a great idea to open the market and let anyone purchase their electricity for a lower price on an open market, the playing field needs to be level. Which means NV Energy’s competitors either need to be required to operate under the same public utility regulatory regime as NV Energy…or we need to deregulate NV Energy.

Please put my name down for deregulation.

3.) New Power Plant: In recent weeks, much hullabaloo has been raised over rumors that NV Energy was proposing to build a new power plant rather than buy electricity from existing power plants that it does not own.

But in sworn testimony submitted on Oct. 19, Paul Caudill, the company’s president and CEO, stated emphatically that it’s been “incorrectly reported” that NV Energy was seeking “permission to build a new natural gas-fired generating plant in 2020.”

He said the company was only asking for permission to conduct a feasibility study “should a future project” be needed.

In any event, with this level of contention packed into three days of hearings, I suspect an awful lot of people are going to suffer an awful lot of heartburn even before the turkey hits the table.

Chuck Muth is publisher of www.NevadaNewsandViews.com. You can read additional columns and/or contact him at www.MuthsTruths.com

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