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Nev. Senate bill to modernize utility ratemaking passes Assembly

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Nev. Senate bill to modernize utility ratemaking passes Assembly

A measure that would let state regulators approve the replacement of NV Energy Inc. utilities' triennial cost-based rate schedule with performance-based ratemaking has passed Nevada's Assembly and Senate. But the Senate must concur with an Assembly amendment before the bill can be sent to the governor.

Sponsored by Sen. Chris Brooks, D-Las Vegas, Senate Bill 300 authorizes NV Energy and its Nevada Power Co. and Sierra Pacific Power Co. subsidiaries to apply to adopt alternative ratemaking plans. If the public utilities commission approves those plans, the bill provides for waiver of the current state requirement that utilities file general rate applications every 36 months. Instead, the utilities would adopt rates under which they would be rewarded if they deliver innovative services and options for customers and in doing so meet clean energy and efficiency goals.

The Assembly on May 23 unanimously passed an amended measure and sent it back to the Senate for concurrence by a June 3 end-of-session deadline.

The Senate is expected to concur with the amended bill. "The amendment was no more than technical fixes to the language," Brooks said in a May 24 email. "It is still basically the same bill sent to the Assembly and I plan to concur in the Senate."

The measure is intended to "position the State of Nevada to create the type of flexible and nimble regulatory environment necessary to develop a modern, reliable, and efficient electric grid," said a policy brief that Brooks submitted to the Assembly.

The bill requires alternative ratemaking plans to enable delivery of electric services, options and pricing for renewable resources and foster development of innovative electric utility services while preserving reasonable utility shareholder value, the brief continued.

The Assembly's changes

Amendments to the bill include eliminating a requirement for the commission to open an investigatory docket to determine the impact of net metering on rates charged by an electric utility and to submit a biennial report to the Legislature of its findings. Assembly lawmakers no longer see that as necessary.

The Assembly also amended the bill to authorize the commission to investigate and make changes to regulations and rates concerning utilities' alternative ratemaking plans at any time for its own reasons or after receiving a complaint from any customer, consumers advocate or its own regulatory staff. Consequently, the commission can substitute "just and reasonable rates, regulations, practices, or services" for those established through a utility's alternative ratemaking plan.

Also, the new version provides that Sierra Pacific Power may apply to establish its alternative ratemaking plan up to a year earlier than Nevada Power so the rate cases can remain on staggered schedules. Sierra Pacific Power, therefore, could apply for approval of its alternative ratemaking plan no sooner than January 2020 and Nevada Power could follow no sooner than January 2021.

Brooks also sponsored S.B. 358, which Gov. Steve Sisolak signed April 22. That bill requires utilities and other power suppliers to obtain 50% of the power they sell to customers from renewable energy by 2030.