Nevada utility seeks OK to spend $373M on ‘resilience’ plan

March 14, 2023 GMT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada’s dominant electric utility is asking state regulators to approve a $373 million maintenance and infrastructure resilience plan that executives say is needed to protect against extreme weather, wildfires and natural disasters.

NV Energy’s three-year Natural Disaster Protection Plan was filed March 1 with the state Public Utilities Commission, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. Commission approval could come in August.

The ratepayer-funded plan would pay for vegetation management and equipment maintenance; burying or improving insulation on power lines; installing weather stations; and hiring meteorologists and fire experts to help the company respond to natural disasters.

“We are holistically looking at our infrastructure, looking at our system and trying to figure out ways to make it more resilient,” company executive Jesse Murray said.

The utility called the plan vital and said climate change and increasing temperatures could make natural disasters worse in Nevada.

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“We are seeing longer, drier periods that are having significant effects on drought and longer fire seasons,” Alex Hoon, senior NV Energy meteorologist, said in the filing. He said climate changes increase threats of wildfires, high-wind events, winter storms, thunderstorms and microbursts, monsoons and flash flooding as well as heat waves and drought across the state.

Murray called the new filing an extension of a Disaster Protection Plan approved in 2020 that cost $270 million. The state Legislature in 2019 passed a law requiring NV Energy to file a plan every three years.

In California, utility company Pacific Gas & Electric was nearly driven into bankruptcy after its crumbling electrical grid sparked a November 2018 wildfire that killed 84 people and nearly wiped out the town of Paradise. PG&E also was found responsible for fires that torched wide swaths of Northern California and killed dozens of others in 2017.

The NV Energy plan would fund work starting in 2024. The company said in its application that it would pursue federal, state and local grants to lessen ratepayer costs.

Murray said there are about 1 million NV Energy ratepayers in southern Nevada and about 350,000 in northern Nevada.