Nevada legislators pass early coal-phaseout bill for NV Energy

The Sierra Club said June 3 that the path to retire NV Energy’s (NYSE: NVE) coal-fired Reid Gardner plant is now clear, thanks to overwhelming bipartisan support of Nevada Senate Bill 123, approved that day by the state Assembly and headed for action by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

As part of the legislation, which was introduced with the backing of NV Energy, Nevada will also end its use of coal power from the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station in Arizona and will plan for 350 MW of new renewable energy. Sandoval has indicated his support for the legislation, the club noted.

The Moapa Band of Paiutes and Sierra Club have fought for several years to retire Reid Gardner, which sits adjacent to the Moapa River reservation.

“When we first started to call for the closure of Reid Gardner, we were told it couldn’t be done,” said Vickie Simmons, leading member of the Moapa Band of Paiutes Health and Environmental Committees. “Now, with this legislation, we are close to our goal. The coal plant that has for years poisoned our reservation will finally close and be cleaned up; and the state of Nevada will build more renewable energy.”

In the weeks leading up to the state Assembly’s vote, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Nevada campaign launched a radio and online ad campaign in support of the measure, and contacted thousands of supporters around the state to urge legislators to pass the bill.

Reid Gardner has four operating units. The first two (#1 and #2) nearly identical units went into service in 1965 and 1968. A third similar unit (#3) was added in 1976. Each of these units produces 100 MW with Foster Wheeler boilers and General Electric turbine-generators. The plant’s largest generating unit (#4) is jointly owned by NV Energy and California Department of Water Resources. This 257-MW unit was commissioned in 1983 and uses a Foster Wheeler boiler to drive a Westinghouse turbine generator.

The Navajo Generating Station in Arizona is jointly owned by NV Energy’s Nevada Power unit (which has 255 MW nominal of capacity in this plant) along with five other entities and is operated by the Salt River Project.

Bill mandates deadlines for coal retirements, renewables RFPs

The final bill said that an electric utility shall file with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission a comprehensive plan for the reduction of emissions from coal-fired electric generating plants and the replacement of  the capacity of such plants with increased capacity from renewable energy facilities and other electric generating plants. The emissions reduction and capacity replacement plan must provide for the retirement or elimination of:

  • Not less than 300 MW of coal-fired capacity on or before Dec. 31, 2014;
  • In addition to the generating capacity retired or eliminated by the end of 2014, not less than 250 MW of coal-fired capacity on or before Dec. 31, 2017; and
  • In addition to these first two retirement deadlines, not less than 250 MW of coal-fired capacity on or before Dec. 31, 2019.

On the renewables side of the equation, the bill calls for the construction or acquisition of, or contracting for, 350 MW of capacity from renewable energy facilities. The electric utility shall:

  • Issue a request for proposals for 100 MW of this capacity on or before Dec. 31, 2014;
  • Issue a request for proposals for another 100 MW on or before Dec. 31, 2015; and
  • Issue a third request for proposals for 100 MW on or before Dec. 31, 2016.

The utility must begin, on or before Dec. 31, 2017, the construction or acquisition of a portion of new renewable energy facilities with a generating capacity of 50 MW to be owned and operated by the electric utility, and complete construction of such facilities on or before Dec. 31, 2021.

The electric utility needs to construct or acquire and own electric generating plants with an electric generating capacity of 550 MW, which must be constructed or acquired to replace, in an orderly and structured manner, the coal-fired electric generating capacity to be retired or eliminated. If the plan includes the construction or acquisition of one or more natural gas-fired electric plants, a strategy must be written for the commercially reasonable physical procurement of fixed-price natural gas by the electric utility.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.