Innovative programs in the energy sector need all the help they can get. Vested interests, such as utilities and power providers, have a profit motive for maintaining the status quo. Sometimes, government is the only hope. Other times, it stands in the way.
In addition to affecting the solar-power industry in their state, Nevada regulators gave another example of how government can cut the lifeline of effective programs.
In January, the Public Utility Commission of Nevada (PUCN) eliminated funding for three popular energy-efficiency programs. The action affects residential and business customers of NV Energy in Southern Nevada. The commission eliminated a residential lighting program that lowers the cost of LED lamps sold in stores, a refrigerator-recycling program, and an incentive program for the installation of highly efficient pool pumps.
The utility predicted steep losses economically and in terms of customer efficiency. According to utility NV Energy, the net economic benefits resulting from its 2016–2018 energy-efficiency programs will be $55 million lower as a result of the PUCN’s decision. In addition, participation in the programs will be greatly reduced as a result of the commission’s action.
Howard Geller, executive director of the energy-efficiency advocacy group Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), said “The decision takes Nevada in the wrong direction.” He described it as “penny-wise and pound-foolish and not in the public interest.”
NV Energy responded immediately, petitioning the commission on Jan. 8 to reinstate the residential lighting and pool pump programs.
The utility has several influential supporters, including Congresswoman Dina Titus of Southwest Nevada’s District One; the Retail Association of Nevada; several individual retail businesses; Nevadans for Clean, Affordable, Reliable Energy (NCARE); and SWEEP have asked the commission to reinstate the two programs.