Las Vegas casinos continue flight from NV Energy’s jurisdiction

MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts Ltd. disconnected their Las Vegas casinos from NV Energy’s power grid on Saturday, fulfilling a pledge made nearly a year ago to separate itself from the state’s monopoly utility.

The companies will pay NV Energy nearly $100 million to remove themselves from the utility grid. MGM owns 20 hotel/casinos on the strip, including the MGM Grand, Bellagio, Excalibur and New York-New York. Wynn owns two — the Wynn Casino and Resort and Encore. MGM completed the largest rooftop solar system (6.2 MW) in the United States in July on its Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

The departures continue a trend as Las Vegas casinos move to take more control over their own power needs, even as the increased number of properties increases the amount of energy needs. Estimates say that Las Vegas casinos consume between 6 percent and 7 percent of NV Energy’s total electricity output, and the utilities have claimed that the casinos’ departure would result in rate hikes on all other ratepayers.

Casino defections are coming fast and furious amid a heated debate over the future of solar in the state. Last December, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUCN) dismantled the state’s net-metering policy. PUCN has since reversed the most egregious aspect of the changes to the policy, by grandfathering more than 30,000 PV system owners under the old rules.

The Las Vegas Strip casinos are making use of a 2001 Nevada law that allows third-party electricity purveyors to sell to NV Energy customers if they pay an exit fee and get permission from the PUCN.

SEIA has held its large trade show, Solar Power International, in Las Vegas two out of the last three years and will have it there again in 2017. Some influential members of the solar industry have criticized SEIA’s decision to hold it in the city because of what they perceive as the energy-intensive wastefulness of the city.