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Nevada takes stealth approach to energy renewables

Reported by: Tom Hawley
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Updated: 5/20 4:30 pm

LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) — Energiewende (pronounced en-er-GEE-ven-duh) is German for "Energy Transition". It's Germany's aggressive plan to reach 80 percent renewable energy sources, boost efficiency by 50% and reduce carbon emissions between 80 and 95 percent by 2050.

Back here in Nevada, there is actually a state law requiring our own energy transition, even if it's not on the tips of everyone's tongues here the way it is over there.

"Energiewende" was a primary topic of the American Council on Germany's Climate and Energy Tour in December of 2013. News 3 was along for the ride.

Senvion Wind Energy CEO Andreas Nauen was one of the German energy experts speaking to the ACG group. Earlier in his career, Nauen had been developing wind projects in Colorado, and used the experience to inform his views on the different challenges on each side of the Atlantic.

"The United States is clearly of a different kind of nature because of these boom and bust cycles that the renewables were exposed to in the U.S.," Nauen said. "Europe has a much longer outlook normally on an energy policy."

But Nevada's largest supplier, NV Energy, has been developing geothermal power for three decades. And that's just the start.

"Nevada has a tremendous resource," observes NV Energy President Paul Caudill. "And that's the ... you know, free fuel sun."
 
He notes that wind power is now starting to make inroads in the Silver State as well.

"We really saw our first major wind project in 2012 with the Spring Valley Project. 66 turbines I think, that produce about 160 megawatts for us," Caudill said

Everyone loves the idea of zero emissions and renewable resources. But obviously you can't count on solar and wind 24-7. And cars, buses and trucks need gasoline for now. So the Energiewende is not a quick, easy or complete solution.

"It's working. It's not working as well as we had thought," says Tiglet Aslan, who managers Deekeling Arndt Advisors, a firm which — among other things — lobbies on behalf of "Big Coal" in Germany.

"There's no discussion of stopping with the Energiewende," says Aslan. "It's maybe more a question of getting a more thoughtful view. How to manage, which time track.

It sounds like Aslan could be describing the approach of NV Energy.

"We'll try to grow this industry with our stakeholders in a very measured approach," says Caudill. "Because what we don't want to see is we don't want to see our customers pay the price or take the brunt of kind of an over-aggressive approach to the business."

But when he says "measured", that's compared to the aggressive timeline of the Energiewende. Nevada does, however boast a goal of 25 percent renewables by 2025, and is exceeding the 2014 goal of 18 percent, while at the same time a tradition source of power here is shutting down.

"The industry is changing significantly due to regulations on emissions from coal facilities," says Caudill. "And so we feel it was kind of a good step for us to move forward and be able to do it the right way for our customers."

In addition to the solar panels you see on government buildings, the price has dropped to the point where residential installation is getting practical.

"If you've just visited Germany and some of the European countries, you've seen a marked change in demand in the global solar industry, which has allowed the industry to get to more of ... I'll call it an equilibrium with supply and demand," explains Caudill. "So costs have come down significantly. We've seen 50 to 60 percent cost decrease in the solar business over the last three or four years."

NV Energy is also providing some incentive, "where we'll  place a solar system on that roof or they will place a solar system on the roof. They'll use the energy to the extent that they have that demand, and then they sell that back to us. And basically it goes back to the grid for other folks to use."

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