NV Energy ditches coal for renewables

NEVADA’S largest utility, NV Energy, has proposed a plan to begin closing four coal-fired power plants and make a switch to renewable energy.

Staff Reporter

The proposed amendment to Senate Bill 123 calls for the accelerated closure of three of the four units at Reid Gardner, the controversial 553MW coal plant in Moapa, by 2014.

It leaves the fourth unit operating until 2017, after which the utility will have no coal plants operating in southern Nevada.

The utility’s “NVision” plan mandates acquisition, construction and ownership of more than 2600MW of natural gas and renewable energy, along with transmission and gas lines related to that development, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

The Las Vegas Sun first reported the details after acquiring a copy of the proposal, also reporting that NV Energy estimates the plan could result in a nearly 4% increase in rates over the next 20 years.

Under the plan, Nevada’s coal plants would begin closing by the end of next year, and the company would accelerate investment in natural gas and renewable energy to replace the coal energy going offline, in a 60-40 split of natural gas and renewables.

NV Energy would also end its contract with Navajo Generating Station’s coal-fired power by 2019.

The construction projects would bring about 4,700 construction jobs to Nevada and would result in about 200 permanent operations and maintenance jobs at the facilities over the next dozen years.

According to the Las Vegas Sun, the changes would not result in any layoffs.

The Paiutes have long complained about the neighbouring plant, arguing that its tribe members living on land adjacent to the plant have been sickened by pollution.

The tribe filed a 60-day notice of Clean Air Act violations last month to the Environmental Protection Agency, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, NDEP and NV Energy.

The Moapa Band of Paiutes Indians said NV Energy submitted false reports to the state of Nevada on ambient particulate pollution levels around the Reid Gardner plant from at least 2006 through early 2011, according to a statement released by the tribe.

The Sierra Club has been supporting the Paiutes claims and released a statement affirming their support for NV Energy’s decision.

“With this legislation, NV Energy unequivocally acknowledges that Nevada wants and needs to leave coal behind. Closing the Reid Gardner coal plant would clean up Nevada’s air pollution and reduce health risks for thousands of Nevadans,” said Sierra Club state Energy Task Force chair Jane Feldman.

“We strongly support closing that plant and fully cleaning up the site, including the polluted lands, air and water near the Moapa Band of Paiutes’ Moapa River Reservation.”

However, Sierra Club said that concerns remain over NV Energy’s proposals to build new natural gas plants and suggested that more emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy is needed.

“If we build more renewable energy, costs remain stable for decades because the fuel costs for solar, wind and geothermal are free,” Feldman added.

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