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City to reconsider renewable energy contract

Jill Lufrano, Appeal Staff Writer

After a two-week renegotiation between city staff and Princeton Development Corp., Carson City supervisors will again consider signing a contract with the California company that promises to bring the renewable energy industry within city limits.

The contract would give Princeton Development exclusive rights to romance solar, wind, geothermal or other “green” energy providers and convince them to invest in the area.

Officials say the deal centers around developing jobs and the economy rather than saving money by buying renewable energy.

“This is not an energy program, it’s an economic development program,” said Carson City Manager Linda Ritter. “It’s not designed to save us a whole lot of money on energy.”

Supervisors first looked at the agreement two weeks ago, but had concerns about contract language that allowed Princeton to opt out of the agreement within 30 days and had no similar provision for the city. The contract also called for a two-year development period, at the end of which the company could extend the time limit up to five years if they were continuing to pursue projects.

Some supervisors were also concerned about a clause that stated the city would pay Princeton back over a 20-year period if another company was chosen over a Princeton project for a similar type of development.

The issues have been ironed out between city staff and the developer, Ritter said.

“We sat down and I said, ‘look, we know where we want to go, let’s just make it clearer in the contract.'”

Staff removed Princeton’s option for a 30-day notice of cancellation, after the company’s president, Steve Taber, said he was willing to remove the clause. The new contract also ties an extension of the development period to specific work products.

“It clarifies the ability to extend the feasibility period,” Ritter said.

Staff also took out any reference to a 20-year time period for pay back to Princeton, Ritter said.

Taber said the risk for developing the renewable energy program in Carson is entirely on Princeton Development.

“The risk is entirely on us,” Taber said. “The worst that could possibly happen to the city is spending staff time. The only downside risk is on Princeton and its partners, not at all on the city.”

Carson began pursuing the development of renewable energy resources as part of an economic vitality plan in conjunction with community and business partners.

Part of the original deal put forward by the city was to partner with surrounding agencies and group power needs together, making it more attractive for an energy provider to build a plant in the city and sell it directly to Carson government and others. Potential partners include Washoe and Churchill counties, the Carson City School District and Western Nevada Community College.

It is not clear whether grouping energy needs together to purchase from a power vendor would be allowed by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission. The commission is researching whether state law would allow the grouping.

Taber said the contract with Carson is “not something the utilities commission has any interest in at this point.” It has been determined through the companies attorneys and the city that it is “entirely legal” for the city to enter into the agreement, he said.

“This is a real chance for Carson City to take a leadership position in Nevada, even in the U.S.,” Taber said.

IF YOU GO

What: Carson City Board of Supervisors, regular meeting

When: 8:30 a.m. Thursday

Where: Sierra Room, Carson City Community Center, 851 E. William St.