As Nevada’s 2021 Legislative session commenced, all eyes were focused on how the state was going to respond to the devastating impacts of COVID-19, but, for those of us in the energy industry, we were all also waiting the expansive legislation addressing Nevada’s clean energy future. Though it took nearly the full 120 days to finally see the light of day, the bill did not disappoint.
Following the Governor’s January “Nevada’s New Energy Economy” announcement, State Senator Chris Brooks went to work on sweeping, comprehensive legislation intended to further the renewable energy development, transform the transportation sector and create jobs. This legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 448, passed and signed into law attempts to position Nevada as an “energy leader” in the next decade. Needless to say, achieving that goal will not be cheap.
With abundant renewable resources in the form of solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal, Nevada has already tapped into its potential. Over the past five years, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) has approved a slate of new solar projects, most coupled with battery storage, replacing legacy coal generation shut down by 2013’s SB 123. Various independent power providers rushed to turn parts of the Nevada desert into a sea of silicon resulting in literally thousands of new photovoltaic generation panels facing the sky in and around both Las Vegas and Reno. Nevada residents have definitely seen these new projects if you have driven around any of the outer areas of our state. In 2018, the PUCN took the unprecedented step of approving six new renewable projects, totaling over 1,000 MW in new solar resources. That’s enough energy to power over 150,000 homes. In 2019, the PUCN doubled down on their commitment to renewable energy by approving three more power purchase agreements, totaling nearly 1,200 MW, all of which were also coupled with massive battery storage facilities. But now, the Legislature has taken this commitment even a step further with SB 448.
Senate Bill 448 Highlights
- High Voltage Transmission: The bill directs NV Energy to file with the PUCN, by September 1, 2021, a high-voltage bulk transmission infrastructure plan that will meet the legislature’s stated objective of building an expansive transmission network, to be operational by 2028. The PUCN recently approved NV Energy’s “Greenlink West” transmission project, and this new plan will add additional 500kV facilities to that project and the existing ON-line project. These new initiatives will create a “triangle” of transmission that will travel up and down the state, allowing for interconnection to new renewable resources as well as energy resources found in other states.
- Transportation Electrification: The bill provides for an initial investment by NV Energy of $100 million from 2022-2024 in five “no regrets” programs with stated public benefits: (1) an Interstate Corridor Charging Depot Program; (2) an Urban Charging Depot Program; (3) a Public Agency Electric Vehicle Charging Program; (4) a Transit, School Bus and Transportation Electrification Custom Program; and (5) an Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Program. NV Energy must file its plan with the PUCN by September 1, 2021.
- Tenant Solar. The bill makes it clear that apartment dwellers can realize the benefits of locally-sourced renewable energy, not just single-family home owners. It changes the definition of “public utility” to affirmatively exclude any multi-family housing facility that provides solar energy to its customers from regulation, allowing certain building owners to augment their energy services with rooftop solar.
- Carbon Reduction. An existing provision of Nevada law already requires that electric energy companies compare a diverse set of scenarios to determine the best combination of resources to meet forecast demands, or the best methods to reduce demands, including “at least one scenario of low carbon intensity”. The bill amends this law to: (1) replace “low carbon intensity” with “low carbon dioxide emissions”; (2) require utilities in their scenario of low carbon dioxide emissions to select resources consistent with achieving by 2050 an amount of energy production from zero carbon dioxide emission resources equal to the total amount of forecast demand; and (3) require utilities to select resources consistent with achieving by 2030 a reduction in the utility’s carbon dioxide emissions of at least 80%, as compared to the level of the utility’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2005.
- Energy Storage. The Renewable Energy Tax Abatement (RETA) program encourages renewable energy developers to build projects in Nevada. The program allows partial tax abatements for facilities that generate electricity from renewable energy or generate process heat from solar renewable energy. The bill expands the RETA program to also cover energy storage facilities that store energy from renewable generation of electricity, and hybrid renewable generation and energy storage facilities.
- Economic Development. The bill also revived a prior program that incentives new businesses to locate in Nevada, providing an initial energy discount to new customers that meet certain criteria.
The bill went through various committees in both the Senate and the Assembly near the end of the legislative session and was widely supported by Nevada’s policy makers. It was ultimately passed and signed by the Governor at what can only be described as a celebration at the local IBEW headquarters in Las Vegas. Now that this legislation has passed, it sets into motion a series of regulatory proceedings, rulemakings, and new dockets designed to implement its provisions. This is where the majority of the details get sorted out, including how much this will all cost utility customers in the form of rates.
For new information on this process, stay tuned to this site as we will provide periodic updates on the regulatory progression.