NV Energy plans to eliminate coal power, at what cost? - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

NV Energy plans to eliminate coal power, at what cost?

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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

Due to the uncertainty of future environmental regulations and aging coal facilities, like the Reid Gardner coal plant located 50 miles north of Las Vegas in Moapa, NV Energy has announced plans to do away with coal all together.

The utility presented the plan to the state Legislature in Carson City Wednesday afternoon.

According to the plan, of the nine coal plants NV Energy operates in Nevada, three at Reid Gardner will be shut down in 2014, six years earlier than originally planned.

The final coal plant at Valmy would be eliminated by 2025.

The Paiute Indians have protested to shut down the Reid Gardner plant over health concerns for several decades.

"Moving away from coal is something I think we need to do as a country," said Bob Boehm, director of UNLV's Center for Energy Research. "There's a cost associated with that and that's the downside to it."

Boehm believes the environmental benefits of vacating coal are a given, but the steep drop in the price of natural gas and solar technology makes NV Energy's switch viable, except for the big price tag up front.

"A lot of these renewables, you put all the expense in right at first. That's not the American way. We like to buy it on time, right?" Boehm said.

NV Energy estimates the cost to consumers will be a 4 percent rate increase over 20 years.

Nevada's Bureau of Consumer Protection estimates 8 percent over 10 years.

Boehm says those rates could spiral upwards if the controversial method of fracking is banned as unsafe, slowing the discovery of new natural gas sources. 

It leads to an eventual split of 60 percent of Nevada's power as natural gas, 40 percent solar, geothermal and wind.

NV Energy estimates construction will create 4,700 jobs, with 200 permanent jobs at the new facilities.

The Nevada state Legislature will need to approve the plan.

Nevada's Public Utilities Commission is the only entity with the authority to raise utility rates.

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