Energy Adviser: Canceling vote sends wrong message | NevadaAppeal.com

Energy Adviser: Canceling vote sends wrong message

The governor’s energy adviser Jim Groth said Wednesday that canceling a special Board of Examiners meeting to approve a master contract with a solar energy developer sends a bad message to the corporations that finance those types of projects.

The Thursday meeting was canceled because Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller said they wouldn’t be able to attend.

“It’s a landmark, watershed type vote,” said Groth. “When we either vote against or push this off, it’s telling the finance world that’s trying to pour money into Nevada, ‘No, we’re not interested yet.'”

He said the master service agreement with GA-SNC Solar wouldn’t cost the state a dime. It simply sets up a system where that company can contract with public agencies to build privately funded solar projects like the one last year at the Nevada National Guard armory. As part of the contract, the agency agrees to pay a fixed price for the generated electric power for a given term such as 15 or 20 years.

The contract, he said, was the product of a lengthy process of trying to make Nevada a more friendly place for renewable energy developers and those willing to finance such projects. He said some companies have told him they avoid Nevada because of the process here, and this contract was intended to help address those concerns.

The contract was held earlier this month when Masto asked for more time to review it. She also said she wanted to let Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval weigh in on the proposal before a vote.

But when the vote was rescheduled, she and Miller informed the budget office they not only couldn’t attend the Thursday meeting but couldn’t phone in.

“If other entities, private sector, are willing to risk their capital and employ people, what’s the downside?” he asked.

Groth said each specific contract would still have to go through the Board of Examiners and the Interim Finance Committee for approval so there’s no danger the state would get ripped off and pay too much for the power.

The issue will be brought back before the board Jan. 11 but one piece of the puzzle will be different. Groth said several federal tax breaks the GA-SNC Solar could qualify for if it was signed this calendar year will have expired.

“It could have some pretty serious tax implications for that company,” he said.

A similar problem occurred in July when Masto and Miller blocked Groth’s proposal for an independent study of Nevada’s potential for rooftop solar power generation. The study was to be funded by stimulus money but Masto objected, saying the Public Utilities Commission was already having NV Energy do that study and Groth’s proposal would just duplicate the effort.

Groth said at the time the state needs an independent study and, if unused, the stimulus money would just go back to the federal government. He made it clear he believes NV Energy would come in with a lower estimate of how much power the electric grid can handle from solar panels on schools and other public and private buildings. The power from those solar systems feeds back into the NV Energy grid, reducing what schools, agencies and businesses pay for electricity. On sunny says, they can even run the meter backward.