Resorts World Las Vegas

An advance rendering of Resorts World Las Vegas, which opened June 24.

The first new major casino in Las Vegas in over a decade opened June 24, and it did so with a plan in place to procure all of its energy from renewable resources—eventually.

The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada on June 22 approved a requested waiver for Resorts World Las Vegas to open as a customer of Nevada Power, the southern Nevada subsidiary of the state's sole investor-owned electric utility NV Energy [21-04009]. Having the waiver in place will allow Resorts World and NV Energy to move forward as they await PUCN approval of their agreement under NV Energy's Large Customer Market Price Energy tariff. The LCMPE is available only to certain new commercial customers of Nevada Power or its sister utility, Sierra Pacific Power, which serves the northern part of the state.

To be eligible for the tariff, customers must demonstrate that they will have an average annual hourly load of 1 GW or more and are not already fully bundled retail customers of NV Energy utilities. Applicants must also not have been approved by the PUCN to purchase energy, capacity and ancillary services from a different provider under Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 704B.

A spate of so-called 704B exits in 2018 included six casinos, a professional sports stadium and a new entertainment venue. Many of the applicants would have been new customers of the Berkshire Hathaway-owned utility. Their pre-emptive applications with the commission to procure power on the wholesale market exploited a loophole in Nevada law that prevented the companies from having to pay impact fees to the investor-owned utility for departing its service.

A regulatory change embodied in the passage of 2019's SB547 stanched the flow of large customers leaving NV Energy service. The LCMPE schedule, which allows eligible customers to receive NV Energy-bundled electric service reflecting the market price of energy, represents part of the utility's effort to retain large customers and attract new ones without subjecting them to an impact fee. It was approved by the commission in April 2020 [19-12016].

The PUCN in December approved an energy supply agreement under the LCMPE schedule between NV Energy and Google to power a Nevada data center owned by the tech giant entirely with renewable energy (see CEM No. 1622 [17]).

The proposed energy supply agreement between Resorts World and NV Energy, filed to the PUCN June 7, would eventually provide the $4.3 billion Resorts World complex with a means for receiving 100-percent renewably sourced electric service from NV Energy [21-06011]. The waiver allowed Resorts World to open as a bundled customer of Nevada Power while the PUCN considers the energy supply agreement and the Resorts World facility climbs toward an average hourly load of 1 GW.

Upon Resorts World reaching the 1 GW threshold, the parties would enter into a short-term energy supply arrangement based on the LCMPE with Nevada Power procuring index-priced wholesale market energy for Resorts World while additional renewable resources are built. A long-term energy supply arrangement will begin once the new facilities have achieved commercial operation, and no later than Jan. 1, 2024, according to the filing.

The parties plan to continue negotiating on the final energy supply agreement until the new generating facilities go online, the filing says.

Resorts World Las Vegas came about as the result of a March 2013 plan to take over a previous project abandoned during the 2008 financial crisis after construction had begun. The massive property was originally scheduled to open in July of 2020, but plans were stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The facility's nearly 88-acre footprint on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip contains 3,500 guest rooms and suites and more than 40 restaurants and bars. The resort complex also features a 117,000-square-foot casino; a 5,000-capacity theatre; a 5.5-acre pool complex; a 27,000-square-foot spa; multiple entertainment, retail and nightlife venues; and 126,000 square feet of LED displays across two screens and a 50-foot diameter video globe.

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Associate Editor - California Energy Markets

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.