Distributed Energy Resources

Nevada, Washington set goals for 100 percent ‘clean’ power

Nevada and Washington State aim to get all their electricity from carbon dioxide-free sources by the middle of the century under legislation approved this month by state lawmakers.

In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, signed a bill (SB 358) on April 22 that increases the state's renewable portfolio standard to 50 percent by 2030 and sets a goal of getting all power from zero carbon dioxide sources by 2050. The bill cleared the Nevada Legislature with unanimous votes.

Nevada's previous RPS, which applies to investor-owned utility NV Energy, was set to ramp up to 25 percent by 2025. NV Energy garnered 24.2 percent of its electricity from renewable resources last year, which had a 20 percent renewable requirement, according to the Las Vegas-based company's most recent RPS compliance report.

Before the new RPS was under consideration, NV Energy already had plans to roughly double its renewable portfolio, partly by adding 1,001 megawatts of solar contracts approved by state regulators in December that range in price from $21.55 per megawatt-hour to $29.96/MWh.

NV Energy supported increasing the RPS to 50 percent and has a goal of getting all its electricity from renewable resources as long as it does not drive up rates.

Meanwhile in Washington, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee said he would sign a bill (S.B. 5116) that bars coal-fired generation from the state’s power supply after Dec. 31, 2025, and requires utilities to sell electricity that is greenhouse gas neutral by 2030. By 2045, utilities must derive all their electricity from non-GHG emitting sources.

With a massive hydroelectric fleet, Washington has the lowest carbon dioxide emissions rate for power plants among all states, according to the Energy Information Administration. Hydro dams produced 68 percent of the state's power supply in 2017, the Washington Commerce Department said in a recent report.

Washington has one coal-fired power plant, the 1,340-MW Centralia plant, which is set to be retired in 2025. However, Washington utilities own stakes in the 2,095-MW coal-fired Colstrip plant in Montana. Puget Sound Energy owns 667 MW, Avista owns 233 MW and PacifiCorp owns 148 MW.

Natural gas-fired power plants produced 10.8 percent of the state's generation two years ago, followed by nuclear generation at 4.1 percent and wind at 2.8 percent, according to the Commerce Department. Coal-fired generation made up 13.4 percent of the state's electricity.

In a key cost-recovery provision, the bill requires the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission to accelerate depreciation for any coal-fired plant owned by an investor-owned utility and allows the UTC to accelerate depreciation for qualified transmission lines to no later than Dec. 31, 2025.

Utilities can meet up to 20 percent of the bill's requirements until 2045 through several alternative compliance options, including buying renewable energy credits and making compliance payments. Utilities that fail to meet the bill's standard must pay $60 per megawatt-hour for non-compliant generation.

The bill requires IOUs to develop plans showing how they will meet the bill's mandates. Utilities must use the social cost of carbon for planning, evaluating and acquiring all resources.

The UTC and Commerce Department are directed to explore with stakeholders the option of joining a regional GHG cap-and-trade program.

The bill also limits rate hikes connected to meeting the new clean energy requirements to no more than 2 percent over the previous year's costs.

The action in Washington and Nevada is part of a nationwide trend of states increasing their RPS requirements.

California, Hawaii, New Mexico and the District of Columbia have set 100 percent clean energy standards while bills to adopt a similar standard are pending or expected in Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, Florida, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Michigan and Massachusetts, according to EQ Research, a research firm. Lawmakers in Iowa, Montana and Texas also are studying the issue, the research firm said.

Also, Oregon, Maine and Arizona are considering major expansions in their existing RPS requirements, but not to the 100 percent level, according to the research firm.