Powerful casino trade group submits substantial amendment exempting several members from higher renewable standards

Riley Snyder
Riley Snyder

The trade group representing Nevada’s powerful gaming industry has submitted a substantial amendment exempting many of their members from an ambitious bill aiming to raise the state’s renewable energy production standards to 50 percent by 2030.

The Nevada Resort Association submitted a letter and suggested changes to AB206 on Thursday ahead of a Senate hearing on the bill Friday. If approved, the amendment would entirely remove the proposed changes to Nevada’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and instead require at least 50 percent of “any new electric generating capacity” from a utility come from renewable sources.

The bill passed out of the Assembly on Wednesday with Democrats and three Republicans voting to support it.

Instead of driving renewable energy production through the RPS, the bill would instead require utilities to file renewable energy production targets as part of their Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which is filed every three years by a utility going over a plan to increase or decrease electricity generation and must be approved by the state’s Public Utilities Commission.

While the bill does lay out deadlines and timeframes for the PUC to approve and suggest changes to the plan and for the utility to appeal, the bill mandates that any approved IRP include the 50 percent renewable energy minimum for new generation.

It also deletes a portion of the bill that would have required so-called 704B customers — named after the provision in state law that allows large power customers to leave the electric grid and purchase power on the open market — follow the renewable standards if they left the grid after 2012. Several major Nevada businesses and NRA members have filed to leave the grid over the last two years, including MGM Resorts, Switch, Caesars and Wynn Resorts.

The association, along with lobbyists for the Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts, took a public stance against the bill during a hearing in April over concerns with the pending energy deregulation ballot vote. MGM Resorts came out in favor of the bill last week, and several other major businesses including Barrick Gold, Zappos and Tesla support the bill.

NV Energy has remained neutral on the bill, but submitted a list of tweaks to legislators last week and warned that it would be unlikely to meet the compliance standards unless the ramp-in period was delayed or modified.

The proposed amendment would also delete language placing additional restrictions on generated out-of-state energy, including a requirement that it has a first point of interconnection with the Nevada balancing authority, an entity charged with keeping a real-time balance between energy supply and demand. It would also delete provisions prohibiting new geothermal generators from using “station credits,” or on-site electricity use that is used to meet renewable standards.

In a letter, NRA president Virginia Valentine said the amendment was necessary because the current bill is “too much too fast.”

“We have serious concerns about the impacts of a mandated RPS on ratepayers,” she said in a statement. “Our concern extends to not only our properties, but to our employees and to Nevada residents, many of whom are frequent guests at our properties.”

In a text message, AB206 sponsor Assemblyman Chris Brooks said he'll "continue to work with them on our shared goals and hopefully we will come to an agreement."

AB 206 Alternative Language NRA by Riley Snyder on Scribd

Updated at 10:25 a.m. to include a statement from Assemblyman Chris Brooks.

Disclosure: MGM Resorts International has donated to The Nevada Independent. You can see a full list of donors here.

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