Michael Yackira, CEO, NV Energy
BY AMY KINGSLEY -- NV Energy wants to clean the coal out of its energy system. A new initiative proposed Wednesday would shutter the power company’s aging coal-fired power plants and replace them with natural gas and renewable sources, such as solar and geothermal.
“The future of energy in the United States and in our state specifically does not have coal in it,” said Michael Yackira in an interview with KNPR’s State of Nevada.
Environmentalists have cautiously supported the plan, which would institute a 60-40 percent split between natural gas and renewable energy. The Sierra Club praised NV Energy’s decision to close Reid Gardner and expand renewable energy. But the group called for more investment in energy efficiency and less reliance on natural gas.
The Moapa Band of Paiutes also commended the utility for its decision to mothball the Reid Gardner power plant, which sits next to their reservation. But the closure is just the first part of a long clean-up process.
“Closing the plant down is only half of what’s needed at Reid Gardner,” wrote Chairman William Anderson in a statement. “The facility’s coal ash ponds and landfill leach toxics into the groundwater, and dust from coal, coal ash and other poisonous residue pollutes our Reservation day in, day out. Our tribal members suffer from asthma, heart disease and other ailments related to these toxic substances. NV Energy must carry out a complete cleanup and restoration of the entire Reid Gardner site.”
Yackira and Anderson had a brief phone conversation after the announcement that Yackira described as “constructive.”
Not everyone is happy about the change. The Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection says that energy rates will rise much more than the company predicts. Dan Jacobsen of the Consumer Protection Bureau aired his concerns in the Las Vegas Sun.
“This is in effect a guarantee that the company gets to keep adding to their profits,” he said.
Yackira said the legislation wouldn’t change the way the utility is regulated, but admitted that it might speed up the process by which the utility raises rates.
Later on in the interview with State of Nevada, Yackira denied that Sen. Harry Reid’s opposition to coal power had anything to do with their decision.
“He’s the majority leader of the senate. He’s our senior senator. Of course we listen to what he says. But if we didn’t think what he was suggesting was in the best interest of our customers and our state, we would have to respectfully disagree. In this case, just like was the case was with the Ely Energy Center — when he thought we shouldn’t build it — and ultimately we came to that conclusion. We were on the same page. And if you can be on the same page as the senior senator and the majority leader, that’s a good thing.”.