PUC decision removes hurdle from renewables | nnbw.com
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PUC decision removes hurdle from renewables

JOHN SEELMEYER

Tim Carlson isn’t all the way home on his plan to develop a wind-generation farm near Ely, but action last week by the state’s Public Utilities Commission removed a major hurdle.

Like other developers of sources of renewable energy in the state, Carlson looks to finance his wind farm through loans that are secured by his contract to sell electricity to Sierra Pacific Power or its sister company, Las Vegas-based Nevada Power.

But investors aren’t willing to make bets backed by contracts with the financially weakened utilities, figuring the utilities might walk away from their agreements to buy power if they were forced against the wall.

That left Carlson’s Incline Village-based Carlson & Associates stuck for months as it seeks about $40 million $1.2 million each for 33 turbines it needs to develop the wind farm near Ely.

Along with representatives of the governor’s office and the two big utilities, Carlson, other developers of renewable energy and their financial consultants hammered out a short-term solution approved by the PUC last week.

Essentially, the state created a fund called the Temporary Renewable Energy Development Program.

It’s a trust that will pay renewable energy developers for the power they sell to the utilities.

The trust’s revenues will come from the utilities as they purchase power from renewable sources.

Ratepayers won’t feel any effects from creation of the renewable fund.

Its primary purpose is to ensure that the renewable developers get paid no matter what happens with Sierra Pacific or Nevada Power.

The two utilities, which are under state mandate to purchase a steadily increasing portion of the power they need from renewable sources,welcomed the deal, said Faye Andersen, a spokeswoman for Sierra Pacific.

“We have supported it from the beginning,” she said.”This should give some assurances to the lenders.”

Carlson, who headed the Nevada Economic Development Commission before entering the private sector, said the PUC’s action will prove important in getting the renewable energy business back on track.

“It’s a strong statement to the renewable industry that Nevada is back in business,” he said.

He said the deal succeeded because THE negotiations involved everyone with a stake in the issue the utilities, regulators and the renewable developers.

“Everyone was very interested in trying to find a way to solve this problem,” he said.

As the utilities get back on their feet and begin regaining their creditworthiness, state officials believe that investors will regain their confidence to make loans backed by sales contracts with the power companies.Hence, they said, the word “temporary” in the title of the financing program.