You have to hand it to NV Energy – when they see an opportunity to exploit, they seize it with gusto.
After two tumultuous years in the state’s solar, during which the state’s rooftop solar industry was buffeted by the sudden elimination of net metering in December 2015 (which the utility supported) and an ongoing battle to get it restored, NV Energy quietly added more renewable energy to its energy mix.
NV Energy’s push for solar in 2016 allowed it to meet its state-mandated renewable portfolio level of producing 20% of its energy from renewable-energy sources. According to its filing with the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC), it is producing 22.2% of its energy in southern Nevada and 26.6% in northern Nevada from renewable energy, averaging 24.4% for its entire service area.
While the majority of NV Energy’s renewable energy generation is geothermal, the utility estimates that solar makes up 1/3 of its renewable portfolio. And despite this lack of exact numbers, according to U.S. Department of Energy data solar represented 6.8% of electricity production in Nevada last year – the third-highest portion of any state, following California and Hawaii.
NV Energy’s renewable portfolio now includes 43 separate renewable energy projects, with four more utility-scale solar projects in the development or construction phase. These four include the 100-megawatt Switch Station 1 and the 79-megawatt Switch Station 2, which should be operational this year. In addition, NV Energy is currently constructing the 100-megawatt Techren Solar Energy Project in Boulder City and is slated to be completed in 2018. The 200-megawatt Techren Solar Energy Project 2 is pending regulatory approval by the Nevada PUC.
NV Energy’s role in the 2015 PUC decision is ultimately unclear, but publicly Warren Buffet, whose Berkshire Hathaway energy company owns Nevada’s largest utility, criticized net metering and suggested it be eliminated.
After national rooftop solar installers like SolarCity and Sunrun pulled out of the state’s paralyzed rooftop solar industry, regulators modified their decision last year. By then, however, the rooftop solar industry had suffered a significant setback from which it is still recovering. These difficulties experienced by the rooftop solar industry left NV Energy as essentially the only solar option in the state, maintaining its monopoly status.