MidAmerican Energy's acquisition of Nevada's largest utility promises to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy such as solar in the state, Congress's most influential clean energy advocate said yesterday.
MidAmerican Energy has 1,271MW of owned solar generation under construction and is owned by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway. In May, MidAmerican announced plans to acquire NV Energy in a deal worth US$10 billion that is expected to close by early 2014.
Harry Reid, a Senator from Nevada, told delegates at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas: “The day I got the call from Warren Buffet I was so happy.
“His company has done remarkably good things around the country we're so excited to have him here. We're looking forward to what he's going to be able to do with his foresight and what he's done with his business activities here in America.
“I'm confident this will give NV Energy the resources it needs to offer greener cheaper power. Five years ago, we had just a few megawatts [of clean power] now we have approaching 2,000MW it would supply a city of 500,000 people with electricity. In 2012 alone more than 300MW of renewable energy was added to our power grid.”
The 404MW of solar energy currently installed in Nevada ranks the state fourth in the country in installed solar capacity. Much of that growth has been driven by Nevada's Renewable Portfolio Standard which mandates the utilities to procure 25% renewable electricity by 2020.
In addition, Nevada's legislature this year passed Senate Bill 123 that requires NV Energy to retire 800MW of coal-fired electric generating plants by the end of December 2019. Of the 900MW additional capacity required by law to offset these retirements, 350MW must come from new renewable energy facilities.
Michael Yackira, president and chief executive of NV Energy, said that the utility was ahead of the curve and already sourced 18% of its electricity from clean sources.
“The MidAmerican acquisition is like a marriage,” he said. “One I'm looking forward to consummating.”
“[Customers] want to deal with us as a producer of electricity – if it makes sense for them to be on time of use or green tariff because they're willing to pay more, or they want to invest in solar or want us to make the investment. It's similar to the way the telephone industry went we're going to deal with the customer the way the customer wants to be dealt with.”
NV Energy supplies electricity to 1.3 million customers, including electricity-hungry Las Vegas. But load growth is expected to remain low to neutral in the state, which has a population of 2.79 million and is 20% reliant on coal-fired generation and 67% reliant on gas-fired generation. Solar facilities such as Sempra Power's 150MW Copper Mountain project supply electricity to Pacific Gas & Electric in California to help utilities meet the state's 33% by 2020 Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Yackira suggested that Nevada could export more solar electricity to other states.
“We have more resources than we can use for the state with 2.8 million [people] in the state for tens of thousands of MW of solar,” he said. “There is opportunity not only to invest but to make it an export commodity.
“But do we have the public will to work in a region rather than creating silos?” he asked, referring to California's reluctance to increase its electricity imports from 38%.