Education
School trustees want more information before making any energy decisions
By
Jackie Valley
The Clark County School District administrative offices on Monday, Jan 16, 2017. Photo by Sam Morris for The Nevada Independent.

If the Clark County School District jumps ship from NV Energy, the decision could be months away.

The School Board of Trustees opted Thursday night to slow down the decision-making process regarding how to secure energy going forward. The board took no votes on the matter after a nearly three-hour discussion that involved a presentation from NV Energy. The trustees’ rationale: They need more information.

“This decision not only could impact our tax revenue, but it could have a ripple effect across the state,” Trustee Chris Garvey said. “I think this is a much bigger discussion.”

Their decision likely provided some relief to NV Energy, which would lose one of its biggest customers if the school district left its service territory and purchases electricity from another power provider.

A trio of companies — Capital Dynamics, Tenaska and Switch — appeared before the board late last month with a proposal to provide power, largely through solar energy, to the district. The companies billed it as a potential big cost-savings to the district and vowed to pay the hefty exit fee associated with leaving NV Energy, which is estimated to be $80 million. The move, however, would lock the school district into a 25-year power purchase agreement.

NV Energy executives on Thursday made the case for why the district should remain under its service. For starters, they said the district’s power bill has decreased by 1.5 percent since the 2013-2014 academic year, despite a 15 percent increase in energy usage.

Public utility officials also offered to work more closely with the school district to analyze how it could become even more energy-efficient and, thus, save money.

Pat Egan, senior vice president of customer operations for NV Energy, said it would be nearly impossible to predict energy rates for a 25-year period.

“We understand that we’re in a competitive place,” he said. “We do not begrudge anyone, including you, taking a good hard look at what may be perceived as an option … Evaluating an energy proposal that’s beyond a couple years is a very difficult matter.”

NV Energy officials also said the school district could not keep its existing energy meters if it changed providers, as the other companies had told trustees last month. If the school district left NV Energy’s service territory, it would need to switch out its 447 energy meters, per a requirement of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Egan said. That could cost at least $24 million.

The wide-ranging discussion led to a change in tone from some board members, who had last month expressed more interest in perhaps leaving NV Energy. Trustee Carolyn Edwards said, upon further review, she found some of the fine print in Capital Dynamics’ presentation “alarming” based on the lack of any assurances.

“I think we need to take a little bit more time to even make any kind of decision,” she said, including whether to issue a request for proposals from companies hoping to provide power to the district.

Still, Trustee Linda Young stood by her enthusiasm about the energy discussion, saying she was glad an alternative proposal was brought forward by the trio of companies.

“We need to investigate everything,” she said. “We are typically accused of waiting and waiting and moving and not doing anything.”

The energy discussion drew a sizable crowd to the board meeting, with fairly split public comment, which lasted nearly an hour.

Danny Thompson, a lobbyist who was the longtime head of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, urged trustees not to leave NV Energy — partially because of the costs it would pass down to community members in the process. He suggested the board form a committee to fully vet any energy proposal if it’s “seriously” interested in continuing the energy debate.

“What you’re doing is very dangerous,” he said. “I would tell you you’re going to impact everyone.”

Other community members, however, viewed it as an opportunity for the district to reduce its carbon footprint. Capital Dynamics has said the district could receive roughly 70 percent of its energy from solar power by agreeing to its proposal.

“My prices in my energy bills have only been raised every single year,” said Maria Castillo, who called herself a concerned parent and grandparent. “Please consider going into the future.”

 

From the Editor

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