Members of Nevada Rural Electric Association (NREA) proudly support the responsible development and use of cost-effective clean energy resources. On average, 75% of the electricity rural electric utilities delivered to their consumers comes from clean energy generation sources. Several NREA members have decades-old wholesale power supply contracts for clean, safe, affordable, reliable and renewable hydroelectricity.
As additional clean energy resources increase market penetration, rural electrics face a variety of technical, operational, policy, and economic challenges. NREA is seeking the best approaches to effectively integrate additional clean energy resources into the electrical grid in the most reliable, cost-effective, and equitable manner. To support clean energy, NREA members adopted net metering policies long before State mandates and one built the Nevada’s first community solar project.
In addition, rural electrics have a proven record of implementing equitable policies on consumer-owned generation, including clean energy. These policies include contracts for the safe and reliable interconnection of consumer-owned generation; rates for retail service; and, special rates for energy produced by consumer-owned generation. Rural electrics have also developed outreach programs to educate local communities, consumers, and policymakers about the costs incurred to integrate clean energy while meeting each rural electric’s obligation to provide safe, reliable, and affordable energy to consumers.
Numerous interests advocating for increased development of clean energy, coupled with the concerns of some advocates over the impact clean energy development has on endangered species, have created public policy conflicts. There are a number of statutes requiring rural electric’s to develop clean energy and power lines to move it to load centers. However, other statutes make permitting, financing and constructing clean energy generation and power lines very difficult.
Changes in environmental regulations have been cited by many owners of coal-fired generating facilities as the reason for their decisions to retire coal-fired units. The loss of these base-load generation facilities poses significant challenges to maintaining our nation’s grid reliability. A diversified portfolio of generation resources moderates risk and ensures grid stability. The combination of current and potential environmental regulations and economic price signals results in a compelling reason to retire coal plants but retirement is a costly and permanent action. Based on information learned during the 2017 “polar vortex,” the exceptionally reliable performance of coal and nuclear power plants provides evidence that even if the units currently slated for retirement are replaced with natural gas capacity, removing these base-load units from the grid will certainly compromise reliability.
Prudent development of clean energy resources could boost Nevada’s economy, especially in rural communities. In certain areas, clean energy development has the potential to create value for rural electric consumers and helps put the State on a course towards a sustainable energy future.
Clean energy resources abundant in one part of the State may not be available in others. As a result, the cost-effectiveness of clean energy varies widely. One-size-fits-all policies, such as a Renewable Portfolio Standard, may not translate into developing the most effective, thriving or dynamic use of the inherent resources that are available in diverse locations and could produce disparate rate impacts. For instance, geothermal power plants are feasible in some locations in Northern Nevada but no geothermal resources exist in Southern Nevada.
Over 70 percent of NREA members’ clean energy is procured by large-scale hydropower facilities located on the Columbia and Colorado River systems. Hydropower costs less than most energy sources, and the average NREA consumer residential energy bill, today, is lower than other areas in the State served by the I.O.U.
Some hydropower facilities can quickly go from zero power to maximum output, making them ideal for meeting sudden changes in demand for electricity. Because hydropower plants can dispatch power to the grid immediately, they provide essential back-up power during major electricity disruptions that occur when other clean energy resources (solar and wind) are not available. Largescale base-load hydropower is a proven safe, significantly reliable, and cost effective clean energy resource that can essentially act as a clean energy battery, which enables seamless integration of intermittent wind and solar generation into the grid.
The responsibility for decisions to deploy clean energy resources are best made by the majority of a rural electric’s consumers, acting through their locally-elected board, and working in close coordination with its power supplier.
NREA supports the development of legislation that will:
- Promote the responsible development and use of cost-effective clean energy resources;
- Provide appropriate funding for research, development, and demonstration projects using cutting edge technologies for clean energy resources;
- Classify demand-side management; energy efficiency; combined heat and power; waste-heat recover; air source and geothermal heat pumps; and, both large and small hydroelectric power (existing and future) as clean energy resources for State and federal Renewable Portfolio Standards and with respect to credits towards the provision of “clean energy” to consumers;
- Not impose mandates on rural electrics if such mandates would undermine local board control of power supply decision-making; threaten system reliability; or, unduly raise the cost of electricity for consumers; and,
- Not jeopardize the safe, reliable, and economic operation of existing generating resources or cause environmental violations at existing generating resources.