Monthly Archives: August 2015

Clean energy summit puts Nevada in spotlight

That buzz coming from the convention center of the Mandalay Bay Resort will be coming from an electrified atmosphere, but you won’t be able to power your cellphone or iPad with this energy … at least not yet.

The event is the National Clean Energy Summit 8.0 with the focus on “Powering Progress.” In its eighth year, the summit has become the nation’s foremost clean energy conversation, bringing in panelists from around the country. This year will mark the first time that a sitting president will take the stage as Barack Obama delivers the keynote speech.

“I’m very pleased to host the National Clean Energy Summit in Nevada for the eighth year and to continue a constructive dialogue about clean energy progress in our country,” U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said. “Discussions like those that take place during the summit have been vital to achieving the rapid expansion of clean energy and innovation in this nation and beyond.”

With the president, other notable speakers will include Ernest Moniz, Energy secretary, and John Podesta, former counselor to Obama.

“To foster true progress in the future of clean energy will require increased public awareness and education about clean energy issues, along with collaboration among policymakers and investors to take action for change,” said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress. “Through the development of jobs dedicated to creating improved infrastructure and innovative renewable energy solutions, we’re not only advancing our economy but also supporting a greater overall quality of life.”

As homes and appliances become more connected to the Internet and people generate more of their own clean electricity, the country will need to invest in innovative solutions to ensure the grid infrastructure is serving the needs of Americans. During the summit’s “Energy in the Information Age” segment, the panelists will explore how companies are inventing solutions that will ensure the grid communicates better with consumers and their homes, allowing them to save energy and deploy cleaner energy.

A discussion on “Energy in the American Life” will focus on how Americans are demanding cleaner energy, less pollution and solutions to climate change and on the ways in which communities are adopting those solutions today.

The “Ripple Effect: Game Changing Clean Energy Investments” discussion will focus on how clean energy investments have dramatic positive effects on the surrounding communities, including job creation, fostering entrepreneurship and building economic diversity. The panel will provide an opportunity to discuss cooperation between the public and private sectors to prepare the workforce to match the needs of a growing clean energy economy, with Tesla’s Gigafactory in Northern Nevada highlighted as one of many models of success.

One of the more timely debates for Nevada might be on “the merits of net energy metering and its role in the future of rooftop solar,” moderated by Rose McKinney-James, former Clean Energy Project chair and managing principal at McKinney-James & Associates.

“This new debate format is an exciting change as we see it as an important way to foster a robust discussion about an issue that’s fundamental for the future of rooftop solar,” McKinney-James said. “Like always, we’ll do our best to drill down to the bottom of the issue and see if we can stimulate conversations that will focus on solutions.”

Joining McKinney-James will be economist and co-founder of the Pacific Economics Group, Charles Cicchetti, and the executive director of the Institute for Electric Innovation and vice president of The Edison Foundation, Lisa Wood.

Other prominent panelists will include the following:

• Bill Ritter, former governor of Colorado.

• Antonio Villaraigosa, former mayor of Los Angeles.

• Nancy Pfund, founder and managing partner of DBL.

• Geisha Williams, president of electric operations at Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

• Susan Kennedy, CEO and board member of Advanced Microgrid Solutions.

• Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress.

• Diarmuid O’Connell, vice president of business development at Tesla Motors.

• Jamie Evans, managing director at Panasonic Eco Solutions.

• Dan Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

• Diarmuid O’Connell, vice president of business development at Tesla Motors.

• Jamie Evans, managing director at Panasonic Eco Solutions.

• Ellen Williams, director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy.

• Thomas Voss, chairman of Smart Wires.

• Amy Ericson, Alstom’s president for the United States

The clean Energy Summit and Exhibit Hall are open to the public. Tickets are $250 and $50 for students. To register go to

National Clean Energy Summit 8.0: Powering Progress is co-sponsored by Reid, the Center for American Progress, the Clean Energy Project, MGM Resorts International and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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FOX bails on Spanish-language network

Spanish-language station KMCC-DTV, Channel 34, is debuting a new logo for the new RCN-owned network. COURTESY PHOTO

Spanish-language station KMCC-DTV, Channel 34, is debuting a new logo for the new RCN-owned network. COURTESY PHOTO

Media giant 21st Century Fox has pulled out of the Spanish-language television network MundoFox, but local affiliate KMCC-DTV, Channel 34 is still serving up its popular telenovelas. Only the national and international news is gone.

Last month, 21st Century Fox sold its stake in MundoFox to its joint-venture partner RCN Television, based in Colombia.

MundoFox had been broadcasting Spanish-language network programming in the United States since Jan. 23, 2012. Laughlin-based KMCC-DTV was one of the first stations to sign on as a network affiliate.

Chris Roman, president and CEO of KMCC, attended an affiliates meeting in Miami at the end of July and, upon his return, assured employees and advertisers of the station’s continued commitment to the Spanish-speaking community of Southern Nevada.

“We had a very good meeting in Miami and the network has a very positive and proactive transition plan to maintain the same quality programming,” he said.

Part of the transition plan is a rebranding from MundoFox to MundoMax that includes a new logo that is being seen on the air and all station assets as of Aug. 9.

On the programming side, one notable difference has been the absence of the weeknight network newscast Noticias MundoFox. The program, which normally aired at 5:30 and 10:30 Pacific Time, was canceled July 28. The network newscast has been tabled and all of the network’s news staff, including on-air talent (with the exception of anchor Rolando Nichols), was fired.

According to Roman, affiliates were told RCN intends to develop a new national news format that will debut sometime in 2016. Regardless of the network’s news plans, Roman said he is committed to continuing KMCC’s coverage of local news and events and will maintain the Monday–Friday 5 and 10 p.m. newscasts. Those newscasts played a role in moving the station into second place among the six Spanish-language stations, between the hours of 7 and 10 p.m. among adults ages 18-34.

RCN Televisión (Radio Cadena Nacional), is a private television network based in Colombia. It started as a production company in 1967 and is one of the largest producers of Spanish-language programming in the world. 21st Century Fox put RCN into the network business in the U.S. with the formation of MundoFox, a partnership between Fox International and RCN.

With Fox’s sale of its partnership shares, RCN now owns 100 percent of the U.S. network. Carlos Arturo Ardila Lülle, the founder of the conglomerate that owns RCN, reportedly has an individual net worth estimated at $5.4 billion and is well positioned to continue the U.S. network operations. The U.S. network operation will continue to be based in Los Angeles, and programming will be transmitted to network affiliates via satellite that will be leased from Fox International Channels, a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox.

RCN produced all of the programs for the MundoFox network so all of the programs that the viewers are used to seeing will remain and continue to be produced, including its popular teleseries programs that emphasize action-oriented storylines, diverse locations and increased production values. In addition, RCN has announced a robust prime-time lineup for this fall. Included is a new program called “The Miracles of Jesus,” which documents the 36 biblical references to miracles.

In continuing its commitment to the Las Vegas Spanish-speaking market, Roman said: “We see Spanish- language broadcasting to continue to thrive, and we want to continue providing that service to Las Vegas. There is a lot of good that needs to be done, and we have the perfect vehicle to do something to ignite our people and inform them of what is happening in their community and the world today.”

KMCC has been active in promoting community events, and Roman said the station will be an important voice for the local Spanish-speaking community during the upcoming 2016 election season.

As of February 2015, MundoMax has current or pending affiliation agreements with 62 stations in 59 markets encompassing 22 U.S. and two Mexican states, as well as Puerto Rico.

However, the network is in a wait-and-see situation with the upcoming FCC Spectrum Auction (previously reported in the Las Vegas Business Press), scheduled to take place on March 29. Roman has assured Las Vegas viewers that KMCC will continue serving the Las Vegas community beyond the spectrum auction.

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Some Nevadans applaud Obama’s clean energy plan

Countless studies have shown that when it comes to the man-made effects on “climate change,” most average individuals feel that there is little they can do to reverse the damage caused by big corporations and electric companies. That is exactly why President Barack Obama’s “clean energy plan,” released Aug. 3 by the Environmental Protection Agency, is such a significant policy announcement.

By 2030, the plan aims to cut power generation plant carbon emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels. In a speech announcing the plan, Obama said, “We are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change, and the last generation to be able to do something about it.”

In this plan, each state is tasked with coming up with its own program to control emissions within its borders and have until Aug. 3 to file that plan with the EPA.

Obama called taking a stand against climate change a “moral obligation,” brushing off the notion that the plan is a “War on Coal” that will kill jobs. Instead, he said, he is reinvesting in areas of the U.S. known as “coal country.” However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a huge coal-producing state, is calling on the nation’s governors to refuse to comply with the EPA regulations. The attorney general of West Virginia has also stated that he intends to challenge the plan; more than a dozen states also are said to be preparing legal challenges.

An inquiry to Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt regarding the clean energy plan resulted in an email reply from a spokesperson stating, “The AG’s office will be reviewing the rules. Consistent with our office policy, we don’t comment on future litigation plans.”

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has long been a supporter of clean energy projects and, since taking office in 2011, the state has approved 21 tax abatement applications, which include large-scale solar PV, solar thermal, biomass, geothermal, and wind projects throughout the state and is not expected to follow suit with other Republican governors.

In Las Vegas, the EPA announcement has generated a flood of emails from environmental activists and support groups such as the Sierra Club.

The Clean Energy Project Inc., a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that lobbies for a clean energy economy, has for the past couple of years been active in encouraging local businesses to reduce their carbon footprint by pledging to reduce energy consumption.

During a clean energy plan support rally at Las Vegas City Hall on Aug. 3, Jennifer Taylor, executive director of Clean Energy Project, stated that, “Nevada’s clean power plan will propel the state to the next level of renewable energy development, green investment, and job growth, and continue Nevada’s national clean energy leadership. Nevada’s climate, location and past bipartisan policy efforts have well positioned our state to not only provide Nevada homegrown, affordable renewable energy, but also to attract additional renewable energy projects that will define the regional market and generate energy for exportation to neighboring states.”

Also speaking at the rally was James Woodruff, vice president of state and local government affairs for First Solar, a company that builds and operates utility-scale solar energy projects around the U.S. In Nevada, First Solar is producing 200 megawatts of power in four locations, has another 558 megawatts under construction, and is in the development stage for an additional 500 megawatts, including the recently announced Switch Station Solar Project at Apex.

The targets for Nevada and other states are based on the pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt hour of generated electricity. But despite the amount of solar and thermal energy being produced and on the drawing board in Nevada, the state is projected to be behind the curve on meeting its annual target reductions until 2026 when the state is expected to produce 582 pounds of CO2 emissions to slide under the EPA goal of 677. By 2030, it is projected that Nevada will be below the EPA goal of 647 with a production of 528 pounds of CO2 emissions.

In Washington, political pundits are likening the clean energy plan to Obamacare and expect this to play out in the courts for the next several years.

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Special financing for renewable projects considered

Jacy Sparkman, left, and Matt Neifeld with Robco Electric install solar panels at a home in northwest Las Vegas. Proponents say a green bank would make money more readily available to finance projects like this. (Jeff Scheid/Las Vegas Business Press)

Jacy Sparkman, left, and Matt Neifeld with Robco Electric install solar panels at a home in northwest Las Vegas. Proponents say a green bank would make money more readily available to finance projects like this. (Jeff Scheid/Las Vegas Business Press)

During the last legislative session, the issue of whether to increase the net metering cap for rooftop solar captured much attention. But another green energy-related bill passed without controversy. And it may have a major effect on the state’s energy future.

Senate Bill 360 directs the previously established Legislative Committee on Energy to conduct an interim study concerning: (1) the development, viability, expansion and implementation of energy efficiency programs; and (2) the viability of establishing green banks and similar entities to help finance the use and harnessing of clean energy projects in the state, for both commercial and residential properties.

According to green energy advocates, the most important part of this bill is the establishment of “green banks.”

A green bank is a public or quasi-public financing institution that is established to provide low-cost, long-term financing support to clean energy projects. Rather than simply providing grants to stimulate clean energy investment, green banks leverage public funds through the use of various financial mechanisms to attract private investment so that each public dollar supports multiple dollars of private investment.

In addition to offering attractive interest rates, loan-loss reserves, and other market supports, these innovative banks draw on deep expertise from the public and private sectors to help demonstrate the profitability of clean energy investments.

In 2012, Connecticut created the first green bank in the United States. According to the bank’s 2013 annual report, for every one dollar of ratepayer funds invested, about $10 was invested by private sources.

Connecticut’s “Property Assessed Clean Energy” program accounts for much of this investment. It lets commercial customers finance clean energy upgrades to their buildings through their property tax bill with no money down.

According to the Coalition for Green Capital, the establishment of green banks in the U.S. will:

  • Stimulate demand by covering 100 percent of the upfront costs with a mixture of public and private financing;
  • Leverage public funds by attracting much greater private investment to clean energy and efficiency markets;
  • Recycle public capital so as to expand green investment and leave taxpayers unharmed;
  • Reduce market inefficiencies;
  • Scale out clean energy solutions as fast as possible, maximizing clean electricity and efficiency gains per state dollar.

Green banks are operating in Connecticut, New York, and Hawaii. With SB360 taking effect July 1, the Legislative Committee on Energy will have until Jan. 1, 2017, to study the viability of establishing a green bank in Nevada and present its findings to the director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau for distribution to the 79th Nevada Legislature, as well as the Public Utilities Commission and the director of the office of energy.

The committee has been directed to seek out a Nevada financial institution that has expertise in the financing of clean energy projects. It will also interview other experts in the field of design, construction, and the operation of clean energy projects with regard to the installation and integration of green energy into both residential and commercial building projects.

Of course, the success of green banks that are already operating should also give the committee insight as to whether a green bank will work in Nevada.

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