CARSON CITY – After a widespread heat wave in the Western United States in August 2020 that led to public pleas to voluntarily conserve energy, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) opened an investigation into resource adequacy and planning to ensure Nevada has sufficient resources to maintain continuous reliable electric service.
As the result of the ongoing investigation in Docket No. 20-08014, the PUCN approved an order on Tuesday, June 15, that accepted a report summarizing information examined during the investigation into the capacity restraints experienced in mid-August 2020 due to the extreme heat.
According to the report, “A western electric region increasingly tight on resources, a growing reliance on a market that is interconnected through California, a limited ability to ascertain the physical generation backing some sales and their potential deliverability, and an ever-rising number of market participants competing for the same resources worked in combination until excessive temperatures caused demand to rise to unexpected levels. This is the perfect storm that arrived in Nevada in August 2020.”
Additionally, the report notes that “The West as a region and Nevada as a state need a larger, regional market that integrates multiple utilities allowing renewable generating resources to balance across large geographic areas. A predictable, reliable western transmission system is critical to ensuring electric reliability in the region.”
The report states that although Nevada currently has a robust integrated resource planning process through statute and regulation, the PUCN recommends a variety of actions to ensure that current practices and regulations provide for adequate, reliable, reasonably-priced energy resources for Nevadans. In particular, the investigation and report focused on Nevada Power Company and Sierra Pacific Power Company, both doing business as NV Energy (NVE), as the primary PUCN-jurisdictional electric utilities serving the majority of Nevadans.
The report outlines five integrated subject areas of investigation: energy supply planning and load forecasting; balancing authority transmission system operations and related issues; wholesale market considerations for planning; demand response opportunities; and utility information dissemination and communications process.
“The electric grid in Nevada is a very complicated apparatus,” the report states. “As NV Energy’s customer demand increases and energy policy changes to adapt to climate concerns, the tools for ensuring reliable electric service must also adapt. This report is the first in many steps to move Nevada toward assessing what changes may be needed to assure our resource adequacy goals.”
At the June 15 PUCN meeting, Commissioner Tammy Cordova, the presiding officer in Docket No. 20-08014, noted: “Finally, customer communication and engagement must increase. NV Energy’s calls to its customers for conservation last August, and the call to all of our demand-side programs worked, and likely kept Nevada without a single forced electric interruption last summer. Kudos to everyone who responded to that call. There are lessons to be learned here which we need to integrate into our planning.”
The PUCN investigation to date has included a review of comments submitted by NVE, other power providers, and large commercial customers. Representatives of those stakeholders, PUCN Regulatory Operations Staff, and the Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection participated in a December 2020 workshop. Afterward, the PUCN requested that NVE provide follow-up comments addressing certain questions that arose during the workshop. The full report approved on June 15 is included in the order filed in Docket No. 20-08014 and is available on the PUCN website: puc.nv.gov. From the top navigational bar on the home page, select Dockets, followed by Investigation and Rulemaking Dockets. Scroll to Docket No. 20-08014 and click View.