This Op-Ed by Steve Wiel and Robert Sprague appeared July 28, 2010 in the Reno Gazette Journal.
With all the recent media and public attention over what NV Energy plans to spend to deliver electricity to its 2.4 million customers, many have lost sight of the cheapest way for NV Energy and all the state’s other utilities to meet much of Nevadans’ energy needs — through energy efficiency.
It costs four times less to save a kilowatt of energy than it does to generate one. Efficiency is cheaper than coal, natural gas, wind, solar or geothermal – cheaper than any other energy resource. Plus, the less energy we use, the less we have to pay our utilities to build expensive power plants and transmission lines or buy power on the open market. This saves money for everyone and keeps more money in state.
Think about it. Did you know that NV Energy spends about $1 billion a year — $1 billion of ratepayers’ money — importing coal and natural gas from other states to produce electricity? Wouldn’t you rather see some of that money stay in state to help you save energy, lower electricity bills and put people to work?
But NV Energy is poised to shortchange its customers on efficiency programs, and state regulators may let the utility get away with it.
This week, the state’s Public Utilities Commission will vote on NV Energy’s long-term spending plan. The plan calls for $154 million less for efficiency programs than the utility had planned in the past. This investment would have saved NV Energy ratepayers an additional $236 million on energy bills and helped lower overall demand for energy, thus reducing the need for expensive new power infrastructure.
NV Energy’s efficiency programs help ratepayers pay for and make energy-saving improvements to homes, offices, schools and other buildings. These improvements are proven money-savers. They also improve the health and productivity of those inside.
Equally important, these programs create good local jobs that can’t be outsourced. With a 14 percent unemployment rate and a flailing construction industry, why would we turn our backs on programs that can put people to work today?
Instead of complaining about the cost to develop energy, any Nevadan who is paying an electricity bill should be taking NV Energy to task for not doing everything it can to help people save money and create jobs.
In this economic climate, now is not the time to be cutting back on programs that help Nevadans lower energy costs and create good local jobs. Our utilities need to be doing everything they can to help their customers cut expenses and reduce our dependency on out-of-state energy resources.
Pulling back on utility investments in energy efficiency cheats Nevadans out of a healthier economy.
Nevadans should demand their public utility commissioners require NV Energy to more aggressively help its customers save energy, lower energy bills and keep money and jobs in state.
Steve Wiel is a former Nevada Public Utilities commissioner and the Nevada representative of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. Robert Sprague is the managing director of Sustainable Energy Services and associate director for Southern Nevada Homebuilders Association.