At the end of the George W. Bush administration, Senate majority leader Harry Reid blocked plans to build coal-fired power plants in Nevada. But, now he is pushing for a Chinese company, ENN Mojave Energy LLC, to build a billion-dollar solar energy manufacturing and generating plant near Laughlin, Nevada on an ambitious development schedule. The drawback is that the state’s major power company, NV Energy, lacks customers for the more expensive solar power.
According to Reid, the project “would start tomorrow if NV Energy would purchase the power.” Reid also stated: “NV Energy is a regulated monopoly. They control 95 percent of all the electricity that is produced in Nevada and they should go along with this.” And in April, he said “I don’t think NV Energy has done enough to allow renewable energy to thrive.” But in April, NV Energy purchased 16.7 percent of its power from renewable sources, exceeding its state-imposed green-energy requirement of 15 percent. And that was in spite of the Public Utilities Commission rejecting a handful of renewable contracts in July 2011, saying the company had not justified that the purchases were necessary to meet its renewable energy quota.
NV Energy is right to be dubious since renewable energy costs more to generate than power generated from coal-fired or natural gas-fired plants and those costs are passed directly onto the consumer. Nevada State law mandates NV Energy buy power as cheaply as possible, except when it is required to buy more-expensive renewable energy to meet state-mandated quotas. And the more renewable energy that is mandated, the higher the electricity bills. NV Energy will need to buy renewable power again in 2014 and will do so from competitive bids.
But Harry Reid sees these as weak excuses. He is even promoting the ENN Mojave Energy project despite (or maybe because) his son, Rory Reid, being one of the attorneys for the project. According to a Reid spokeswoman, the senator did not suggest Reid’s firm – Lionel, Sawyer & Collins – to ENN, nor has the elder Reid spoken to this son about the deal.[i] But given Reid’s recent statements on a number of issues, there is no reason to believe he is being honest.
[i] Las Vegas Review Journal, Costs, conflicts arise in Reid’s push for green power, August 3, 2012, http://www.lvrj.com/opinion/costs-conflicts-arise-in-reid-push-for-green-power-164858086.html