Nevada utility regulations hampering growth of solar energy

Conflict between energy-hungry casinos and utilities highlights challenges of burgeoning solar electricity generation.

March 16, 2016 |
Nevada utility regulations hampering growth of solar energy

Photo: Jason Mrachina/Creative Commons

In recent months, three of Nevada’s largest casino companies announced plans to step up purchasing and producing more renewable energy for their hotels. The casinos are responding to increasing demand for responsible energy use from companies that rent their conference halls. 

They also want to take advantage of a surplus of cheap power from solar farms in Nevada and California. As the largest customers of Nevada’s utility companies, their actions threaten the profitability of these large legacy electric providers.

If utilities lose the income from the major casinos, other customers would be subject to significant rate hikes, the utilities say. So, the public utility commission (PUC) of Nevada is requiring the casinos pay tens of millions of dollars to leave NV Energy’s services. The casinos have appealed that December 2015 ruling, arguing that the requirement is illegal.

In a related matter, the city of Las Vegas is planning to use 100% renewable energy for its municipal buildings, fire stations, city parks, and streetlights by 2017. That would make Las Vegas the largest U.S. city to achieve such a goal. To get PUC approval for that plan, the city had to pledge to buy most of the power from an NV Energy solar plant.

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