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

Two additional major Nevada casinos have filed applications with state regulators to leave NV Energy as electric customers, joining the double-digit parade of companies filing to leave the utility and further clouding the state’s energy future.

Reno-based Grand Sierra Resort and SLS Las Vegas filed separate applications on Dec. 20 with the state’s Public Utilities Commission that if approved would allow each casino company to purchase electricity from a provider outside of NV Energy. The casinos share an owner; Grand Sierra Resort owner Alex Meruelo and the Meruelo Group agreed to purchase the SLS Las Vegas in 2017.

The two proposed exits bring the number of businesses that applied to leave the utility in 2018 up to 10. Applications last year came from a mix of casino companies and other large properties, including Boyd Gaming, MSG Las Vegas, a building supplies company north of Las Vegas, the under-construction Raiders stadium, Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, Fulcrum Sierra BioFuels and Station Casinos.

The exit applications fall under a provision of Nevada law that allows large power users to depart NV Energy as a customer, as long as energy regulators find the exit to be in the public interest and if the departing company pays a substantial “exit fee” to offset unexpected costs that would otherwise be paid by other utility customers.

The two recently filed applications include few details as to why the casinos wish to leave the utility as a customer, but both say they will purchase power from private electricity provider Tenaska under a likely three-year contract, and want to start their service in October 2019. Most businesses that have filed to leave the utility say they did so to either secure lower electric rates or to obtain an alternative fuel mix to what NV Energy provides.

In a joint statement, a Meruelo Group spokesman said the applications were being filed so that the companies could “capitalize on our state’s abundant natural resources.”

“Our guests recognize the importance of making environmentally responsible energy decisions and, in order to meet those expectations, we have begun the process of working with Nevada’s energy regulators to meet our guests’ demands,” the company said in a statement.

A company’s exit date from NV Energy also locks in the percentage of renewable energy generation required under the state’s current Renewable Portfolio Standard and avoids having to meet a higher standard if lawmakers increase the mandate in 2019.

Some critics, including a nonprofit backed by Switch, have suggested that regulators take a more proactive role in assessing how the growing number of large customers departing the utility’s service will affect future demand.  

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