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Energizing

Sally Roberts
sroberts@nnbw.biz
The Stillwater Hybrid facility, which generates power from geothermal and solar sources, is an example of the future of Nevada power.
LVN FILE PHOTO |

Nevada has what it takes to lead the nation in the future of energy.

“Nevada is on a great path,” said Kevin Geraghty, senior vice president, energy supply for NV Energy. “It’s incredible what we’ve accomplished in Nevada.”

Geraghty said the state has some of the lowest power rates in the mountain west and NV Energy will retire its polluting coal plants ahead of other states, including California.

“We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing and do more of it,” he said during a phone interview with the NNBW.

Nevada has significant resources to generate solar and geothermal power, noted Chandler Sherman, of Bring Back Solar and public affairs manager for SolarCity.

Putting power generation into the hands of more consumers will transform the power grid of the future, she said. “Transition has started now and it’s happening quickly.”

Geraghty and Sherman are panelists for “The Future of Energy” session at the 2nd Annual Nevada Economic Development Conference — Building a Stronger Nevada, on Sept. 20-22. Other panelists are Washoe County Commissioner Kitty Jung and Timothy Hay, an attorney and energy consultant. Political journalist, Jon Ralston, will moderate the Wednesday morning panel discussion.

The conference will take place at the University of Nevada, Reno and includes 28 breakout sessions, tours, four keynote speakers and all-day workshops.

Nevada’s progress toward replacing traditional carbon-based energy sources like coal and natural gas with renewable energy such as solar and geothermal suffered a set back earlier this year. The Public Utilities Commission, arguing that average ratepayers were paying too much to subsidize those with rooftop solar panels, ordered the roll back of special net metering rates. With the opportunity to recoup their investment severely curtailed, the market for solar installations quickly dried up and solar panel companies left Nevada.

The action gave Nevada a “black eye,” Geraghty said.

According to Sherman, “Nevada took a big step backwards.”

Sherman and others are working to overturn the PUCN ruling, but more is at stake.

“The broader issue, is how do we get the industry going again?” she said. “Consumers want more clean energy.”

Encouraging rooftop solar benefits society in numerous ways, she said.

“Perhaps we don’t need to build the next power plant because we already have enough rooftop solar” for future needs.

Sherman said she’s excited to see consumers nvolved in the issue but they need to get even more involved.

“What is in the best interests of the country and how do we design the grid of the future?” she said. “We can’t leave it entirely to decision makers.”

Geraghty also noted the importance of consumer engagement and education to help them use energy more efficiently.

“Customers are dramatically more engaged in energy management, energy use,” Geraghty said. Tools such as smart meters and using smart phones to control home appliances give them more control.

But to make clean energy really practical is going to take action from government leaders, he said.

“The challenge is that carbon-based energy is cheap. We need to make (carbon-based) energy dramatically more expensive or renewable energy dramatically less expensive,” he said, comparing the issue to cigarettes. Smoking decreased when cigarettes were taxed and became expensive, he said.

With regulators, industry and consumers working together, Nevada’s energy future should be brighter.

“We have the potential right now to right the wrong and make Nevada the energy leader it should be,” Sherman said. “We have the resources.”