NV Transmission 0604

A transmission tower in northern Nevada.

A bill that would set Nevada and its neighbors on a course to develop or join a regional transmission organization by 2030 now sits on the desk of Gov. Steve Sisolak. The sweeping legislation, which Sisolak is expected to sign, passed unanimously in the state’s Senate and with a strong majority in the Assembly.

It would also expand transmission infrastructure in the state, adopt measures to increase electric vehicles and home energy storage resources, and double state funding for energy-efficiency programs in low-income and underserved homes, communities and public schools.

The bill shares elements of Colorado’s transmission-modernization bill, SB 21-072, which also passed this week, and its environmental-justice bill, HB 21-1266}, which remains under consideration (see related story).

Sen. Chris Brooks on May 13 introduced SB 448 with nine primary sponsors and the support of the governor, environmental and labor organizations, and NV Energy, the state’s only investor-owned utility (see CEM No. 1641).

The bill would require NV Energy, which does business in the state as Sierra Pacific Power and Nevada Power, to file with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada by Sept. 1 a plan for constructing high-voltage transmission infrastructure to be placed into service no later than Dec. 31, 2028.

The PUCN on March 22 approved the utility’s Greenlink Nevada project that would create a triangle of new transmission lines totaling more than 600 miles and connecting renewable-energy development sites throughout the state with major load centers. The first phase of the project, Greenlink West, is expected to be complete by December 2026 (see CEM No. 1634).

Environmental organizations including Western Resource Advocates and the Sierra Club’s Toiyabe Chapter support SB 448, but Basin and Range Watch, a desert preservation organization in Nevada and California with a focus on protecting public lands from “energy sprawl,” opposes the transmission expansion. The group says that construction routes and transmission lines would run through sage grouse, desert tortoise and Joshua tree habitat.

The bill would also create an RTO task force to advise the governor on the costs and benefits of forming or joining an RTO. It would include representation from small and large utilities; key Nevada industries; transmission, solar and geothermal businesses; labor and environmental organizations; the Colorado River Commission; the Nevada Indian Commission; the PUCN; and other state government and regulatory entities, as well as the general public.

The bill is designed to extend the energy transition to low-income and underserved communities through measures that would increase access to rooftop solar on low-income and multifamily housing units.

“Senate Bill 448 will transform Nevada’s clean energy landscape, create thousands of good-paying jobs and ensure Nevada’s underserved and low-income communities benefit from this energy transformation,” NV Energy spokeswoman Jennifer Schuricht said in an emailed statement.

The bill would facilitate electric-vehicle adoption across all customer classes by requiring NV Energy to invest in public EV charging infrastructure and to create incentives for such infrastructure at single-family and multi-unit dwellings. The utility must invest 40 percent of the funds in a transportation-electrification plan to be filed with the PUCN toward low-income and historically underserved communities. The bill also calls for the electrification of public transit and publicly owned vehicle fleets.

“Senate Bill 448’s passage will reduce emissions, eliminate wasteful energy use, and make electric vehicles more accessible to low- and middle-income Nevadans,” Ellen Zuckerman, utility program co-director for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, said.

An amendment to the bill would increase utility funding for energy-efficiency and conservation programs in low-income and underserved households and communities from 5 percent to 10 percent of the utility’s expenditures on such programs.

“Senate Bill 448 provides important investment in low-income communities that bear the greatest burdens of both climate change and air pollution,” Cameron Dyer, staff attorney for Western Resource Advocates in Nevada, said in a news release, adding that the bill would spur job creation and economic development.

Brooks displayed enthusiasm for developing renewable energy and transmission projects on Nevada’s vast public lands when he introduced SB 448, but he also voted with a majority of the Legislature on May 21 to pass a joint resolution proclaiming support for President Joe Biden’s goal of conserving 30 percent of public lands and waters in the U.S. by 2030.

Assembly Joint Resolution 3 urges the protection and conservation of 30 percent of Nevada’s public land and water toward the 30-by-30 effort and supports a longer-term goal of conserving 50 percent of public land and water in the U.S. by 2050.

The resolution advocates for establishing southern Nevada’s Avi Kwa Ame, or Spirit Mountain, a place in the Mojave Desert sacred to 10 Native American tribes of the region, as a national monument (see CEM No. 1635). It also calls on federal decision-makers to permanently protect the Desert National Wildlife Refuge from military expansion related to the nearby Nellis Air Force Base.

Roughly 80 percent of Nevada’s 70.2 million land acres are administered by federal agencies with multiple-use mandates, according to the resolution.

The Legislature on May 31 passed AB 383, a bill that would boost energy- and water-efficiency standards for 13 household and commercial products including water coolers, computers and computer monitors, commercial kitchen equipment, gas fireplaces, fluorescent lamps and home ventilation fans sold in Nevada. The state’s energy office would develop standards for the appliances by Oct. 1, 2022, and the sale of appliances not meeting those standards would be disallowed beginning July 1, 2023.

Other energy-related bills that passed in the Legislature include:

  • SB 18, signed by Sisolak on May 20, which allows the PUCN to increase fines for utility rule violations such that the potential cost of the fine exceeds the value of the violation.
  • AB 413, signed by Sisolak on May 19, which establishes an interim legislative committee on transportation that would include representatives from local, county, tribal, state and federal agencies with expertise in transportation and clean energy.
  • AB 84, which authorizes Nevada’s state forester and fire warden to enter into public-private partnerships to acquire wildfire-detection and early-warning equipment, which passed unanimously May 19 and awaits the governor’s signature.
  • SB 77, passed May 21, which if signed by the governor would exempt certain predecisional meetings and discussions regarding National Environmental Policy Act proceedings in Nevada from the state’s Open Meetings Law and the Nevada Public Records Act.

Notable energy legislation that failed during the session includes:

  • SB 382, an energy-efficiency bill of which several provisions were incorporated into the efficiency goals of SB 448.
  • SB 296, which would have allowed natural gas utilities to continue recovering investments in new infrastructure projects in contradiction to state goals that would eliminate carbon emissions by 2050.
  • AB 380, which would have required gas utilities in order to recover investments in rates to prove to the PUCN that their spending plans would maintain affordable and safe natural gas infrastructure as the state transitions to building electrification.
  • SCR 10, which would have directed the Legislative Committee on Energy to conduct an interim study on developing hydrogen, vanadium and lithium as energy resources in Nevada.
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Staff Writer

Abigail Sawyer grew up in northwestern New Mexico near two massive coal-fired power plants. She spent many hours gazing out the car window at transmission lines on family road trips across the Southwest and now reports on the region from San Francisco.