Tag Archives: Rose McKinney-James

Nevada’s Energy Future


Debbie Donaldson (L) moderates a panel discussion on the future of green energy with Dr. Patricia “Pat” Spearman, Nat Hodgen, and Jessie Murray.

By Craig A. Ruark

Just before the opening of early voting, energy experts and elected officials told a pair of forums that ballot Question 3 presents a rare opportunity for both consumers and the industry to stake out winning positions for the future.

Question 3 would authorize the Nevada Legislature to “minimize regulations on the Energy Market and eliminate legal energy monopolies.” If approved by voters, it would have to be voted on again in 2018 before it could be implemented in 2023.

On October 19th, the Nevada Energy Star Partners Green Alliance held a panel discussion titled “Nevada’s Energy Future.” Debbie Donaldson, publisher of the Las Vegas Business Press, asked panelists Dr. Patricia “Pat” Spearman, Nevada Senator District 1; Nat Hodgen, executive director of the Southern Nevada Home Builders; and Jessie Murray, director of renewable energy projects for NV Energy, to describe the current energy environment and what we need to do to prepare for the future.

The three speakers, though diverse in their backgrounds, were part of the “New Energy Industry Task Force” that was initiated by Gov. Brian Sandoval and worked toward solutions to grid modernization, carbon emissions, distributed generation and storage, and clean energy sources.

Based on the Task Force’s research and discussions, several recommendations have been sent to the governor for the 2017 legislative session. In addition, a plan for grandfathering residential rooftop solar customers (those who were on-line or had applied to be part of the solar program as of Dec. 31, 2015), was approved by Governor Sandoval. It will take effect in December 2016 and expire November 30, 2036.

Senator Spearman said she is planning several bills for presentation during the 2017 legislative session.

“The technologies that we have right now and those that which are on the horizon are changing, literally, in a nanosecond,” she said. “We don’t have legislative policies in place to address the question about [energy] storage adequately. Because we don’t have policies in place that address an integrated energy system that customers want to go to.”  Spearman supports modifying the electrical grid to include distributive generation including geothermal and wind energy, and advocated for ‘out of the box’ thinking to prepare us for energy possibilities that are unthought of at this time.


Rose McKinney-James, (L) moderates a panel discussion on ballot initiative Question 3 with Adam Kramer, John Hanger, Gary Aksamit, and Quentin Abramo, president of Faciliteq, representing small business.

On Oct. 20, Clean Energy Project, a non-profit organization, drew more than 100 people to the Switch Innevation Center in Las Vegas for a lunchtime session. The panel discussion was moderated by Rose McKinney-James, lobbyist and managing principal of Energy Works LLC, and included panel experts on distributive energy generation.

The topic title: “How will ballot initiative Question 3 ensure that clean energy development has a place in a well-regulated open market; and how will a restructured market ensure that all customers have the opportunity to access clean energy to power their homes and businesses?”

Adam Kramer, executive vice president of strategy for Switch, worked with environmental and consumer advocacy groups to develop the “Yes on Question 3” stance, answered: “The genesis of Question 3 is to deliver low-cost renewable energy to all Nevadans. As we begin talking about the restructuring and creation of a well-regulated open market, it is important that we do this in a way that is cognizant of the importance of renewables as well as the protection of all ratepayers here in Nevada.”

Switch along with MGM and Wynn Resorts have received approval from the Public Utilities Commission and to leave NV Energy’s grid. The Las Vegas Sands Corp. also filed an exit application that was approved by the PUC, but the company opted not to go forward.

John Hanger, an energy consultant and former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, described this initiative from his perspective is “A huge opportunity for clean energy, but it is also an opportunity for customers.”

Hanger cautioned that there are two important pieces that must be in place both for clean energy and for consumers to make “the power of choice” option work:

  1. You need to have a real-time market monitor — ‘the cop on the beat’ of the retail and wholesale energy market to protect consumers. “The recent changes at FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] are important, but you also need a local cop,” said Hanger
  2. On the demand side of the market, the cleanest energy source is energy efficiency so if you empower consumers with smart meters and thermostats to control their demand, it will help their pocketbook and will also help the air quality and the environment.

Gary Aksamit, founder of Americans for Electricity Choice, offered a glimpse at what the market could look like after restructuring.

Using Texas as an example, Aksamit suggested that consumers check out www.TexasPowerToChoose.org, a clearinghouse database of all of the retail power providers in the state of Texas and competing for consumers. (Readers can put in the zip code 75094 to see how the site works.)

“Once into the website,” said Aksamit. “You are going to find between 150 and 250 offers for your business.”

The consumers in Texas have the opportunity to choose everything from 100 percent renewable energy to energy based on the lowest cost per kilowatt hour. Consumers are also able to lock in rates for whatever period they choose, with, of course, a penalty for early cancellation.

This type of open market program, according to Aksamit, allows the consumer to choose the type of power and the price point that fits their budget and lifestyle. The drawback to this program is with all the choices afforded to the consumers, not everyone is going to have the knowledge or want to take the time to wade through all of the options. In that case, many consumers may just accept what the local utility is offering and call it good.

The idea behind Question 3 is to offer choice to those consumers that want choice and to begin to prepare Nevada for a progressive energy future. That’s a planning process that Senator Spearman stated “must start now.”


Obama promotes solar in Vegas visit

Call it a “tree-hugger” convention or a political rally, but the National Clean Energy Summit 8.0, held Aug. 24 at Mandalay Bay, was clearly a vehicle used to keep the solar bandwagon moving across the country.

Or should I say, in the case of Nevada, to start the bandwagon moving again.

The elephant in the room was the recent Nevada net metering cap that had been reached three days before the start of the conference, throwing Nevada’s over 6,000 solar workers into panic mode.

President Barack Obama, feeling refreshed from his recent vacation, was greeted with a standing ovation and enthusiastic applause when he took the stage to deliver the closing address.

Not wasting any time, one of his initial comments was clearly directed toward NV Energy.

“It’s one thing if you’re consistent in being free market,” Obama said. “It’s another thing if you’re free market until it’s solar that’s working, and people want to buy it, and suddenly you’re not for it anymore. That’s a problem.”

The president announced that his administration will seek to expand access to a loan program that allows homeowners to get up-front financing for clean-energy or energy-efficient home upgrades, and then pay it off over many years as part of their property taxes.

“We’re going to make it even easier for individual homeowners to put solar panels on the roof with no up-front cost,” Obama said.

During his 30-minute speech, Obama remarked that “distributed” generation is sweeping the country as more and more homes install solar panels and, more recently, contemplate backing them up with home batteries. “The real revolution going on here is that people are beginning to realize that they can take more control over their own energy,” he said.

Obama also took advantage of this occasion to focus attention on his administration’s flagship climate change solution, the EPA’s recently completed Clean Power Plan, which depends upon the strong growth of clean energy.

The plan requires states to cut emissions through a mix of options that include greatly increasing the amount of electricity they get from wind, solar and other renewable sources.

However, 15 states, including West Virginia and Wyoming, have filed suit seeking an “emergency stay” of the rule, which they call “clearly unlawful.”

Sen. Harry Reid, the summit’s organizer and host for the past eight years, took several opportunities during the event to bemoan that Nevada is the first state to reach the limit on net metering, commenting on both the state of the current utility grid and efforts by utilities across the country to abandon or revise net metering regulations.

“Our electric grid has barely changed in a century, but that is quickly coming to an end. American demand for clean, reliable power choices is forcing change that is accelerating,” said Reid. “It is clear that distributed energy, energy storage, other sources of electricity and efficiency, are competing with utility-scale power plants as they should, and indeed the facts cannot be ignored. U.S. solar has increased 418 percent since 2010, and more than half of this increase comes in the form of solar panels on homes and businesses. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have authorized net metering, and nearly 60 percent of our utilities across the country are currently reviewing their net metering policies.”

A debate on the “Future of Rooftop Solar” — featuring Charles Cicchetti of Pacific Economic Group representing the rooftop solar contingent, and Lisa Wood of Edison Foundation speaking for the public utilities — captured the attention of attendees when they took opposing positions. Rose McKinney-James, managing principal of Energy Works Consulting and McKinney-James & Associates, moderated the debate with questions that were crafted to bridge the opinion gap. Despite her efforts to reach some common ground, the debate ended in a stand-off, reminiscent of the real world debates that are taking place in Congress.

Save our Solar signs and T-shirts could be seen throughout the Summit audience.

Save our Solar signs and T-shirts could be seen throughout the Summit audience.

Despite the rather negative vibe and the silent protest of T-shirts and signs reading “Save Our Solar,” NV Energy’s CEO Paul Caudill was on the agenda to introduce a panel discussion of “Energy in the Information Age.” Caudill received moderate applause during his short introduction when he spoke about the various statewide geothermal and solar projects in place and the partnership with First Solar to develop the new 100-megawatt grid-tied Switch Station that will be constructed and operated at costs that are being recognized industrywide as among the lowest seen in the United States.

Whether it was a result of the conference, pressure from politicians and the people, or simply the logical decision to be made at the moment, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission made a ruling three days after the summit, to extend the current net metering program until an alternative recommendation can be made at the end of 2015.

– See more at: http://businesspress.vegas/obama-promotes-solar-vegas-visit#sthash.kfDCn4p2.dpuf

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 cleanenergysummit.org.

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.

– See more at: http://businesspress.vegas/clean-energy-summit-puts-nevada-spotlight#sthash.ixe4lNxG.dpuf