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NV Energy corporate headquarters as seen on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

The Board of Regents voted unanimously Friday to forego an exit from NV Energy’s power grid and instead open negotiations with the utility to enter into a fixed-rate renewable energy program.

Called the Optional Pricing Program Rate (OPPR), the program would allow for certain large NV Energy customers to receive a long-term fixed rate for energy generated by solar power plants. For the Nevada System of Higher Education, estimates from the utility show a $633,000 decrease in costs in Southern Nevada evened out by a $252,000 rate increase in the North by 2022, for a total savings on the system’s power bill of $381,000 per year, based on current energy use by all eight NSHE institutions.

“This opportunity not only best meets the energy needs of our institutions and the renewable and sustainable energy goals of the Board of Regents, but it also comes at a significant discount,” Regents Chair Kevin Page said in a statement.

These estimates mark the first time NV Energy has publicly revealed the potential cost savings of the program, which has been used thus far as a lure for more than a dozen major energy buyers seeking to leave NV Energy and buy renewable power elsewhere, including the Las Vegas Sands, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the Raiders Stadium. The OPPR rate, which has been criticized by Public Utilities Commission Staff and the Bureau of Consumer Protection, is still pending before the commission.

Many of these high-profile NV Energy customers have in recent weeks abandoned efforts to leave the utility’s power grid via the so-called 704b process, a 2001 law that allows large companies or government entities to leave the grid after paying an “impact fee” meant to offset the burden handed off to other ratepayers. State lawmakers passed a bill at the end of the 2019 session that adds multiple processes and cost barriers for future customers looking to leave the grid, exempting the roughly dozen or so businesses that had pending applications in place before the bill was introduced.

Some of those companies, including Station Casinos and the Cosmopolitan, have dropped their exit plans with the specific intent of pursuing a deal under the OPPR instead.

Friday’s vote was only the first step in the process of entering the OPPR, and any deal would still need to be negotiated through the state’s Public Utilities Commission. Should NSHE finalize a contract with the utility, it would require another vote by the Board of Regents before taking effect.

 

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