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County researching cheaper Hoover Dam power

Nye County Commissioners last week directed county staff to submit a non-binding application for a Hoover Dam power allocation, which could reduce power costs for county governmental entities, despite objections from Tim Hafen it may affect the bottom line of Valley Electric Association.

The county would submit an application for 1.7 megawatts from the Western Area Power Administration and Colorado River Commission, which is equal to the average aggregate demand of the county, the school district and towns like Pahrump, Amargosa Valley and Beatty. It would serve 132 meters including schools, libraries, parks, water and sewer facilities. The Hoover Power Allocation Act of 2011 allows government entities to apply for up to 5 percent of the power generated by the dam. The application could be withdrawn before June 2016 without a penalty.

Nye County Interim Community Development Director Darrell Lacy said the government entities, who are currently paying 10 to 11 cents per kilowatt hour, could save anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 per year in power costs.

A transmission service agreement would be required with VEA, as the government applicants would be using their transmission and distribution facilities.

“The price that is projected will probably be in the neighborhood of two cents (per kilowatt hour) plus the transmission from Valley Electric,” Lacy said. “We have the ability to save two to three cents per kilowatt hour of power going out. It’s going to require a joint application from multiple entities to meet their requirements.”

Brenda Gilbert, program manager for BEC Environmental, wrote to the Colorado River Commission Dec. 3, 2012 hydro power program manager asking about a Nevada Administrative Code requirement that applicants for power must have a peak demand of at least eight megawatts. Lacy said the county was later informed they could apply if it was a joint application.

The county will probably get an answer from the Western Power Administration on whether they can purchase the power and the cost of the power in a year or year and a half, Lacy said.

“Maybe you can save a couple of cents on the cost, Valley Electric also buys power through some of these organizations. But you’re completely dependent on Valley Electric,” Hafen said. “That couple cents is going to fall back on the rest of us that the county an school district were paying two cents more. Now for Valley Electric to remain viable that’s going to have to come back on the rest of the consumers. I don’t really think this is going to work out too well. You have too many entities involved, too many areas involved. I think you better really think about this.”

Hafen, a former state assemblyman, has been a Pahrump resident since 1951 and was on the VEA board from 1969 to 1982. VEA gets about 18 percent of its electricity from hydroelectric power.

“If the school district and county are going to save between $100,00 to $300,000 per year the rest of us are going to make that up aren’t we? And I don’t think because you’re a school or a government entity you shouldn’t pay your way,” Hafen said.

Cameron McRae, Nye County School District director of transportation, maintenance and operations, wrote to the county his board gave him permission to move forward teaming up with the county on the application process. Amargosa Valley Town Administrator Mike Cottingim said his board also wants to participate.

“Before we make a commitment we will have a detailed analysis. At this stage we’re moving forward with an application that is non-binding,” Lacy said. He said the allocation is savings from Hoover Dam power that currently go to entities in California and Arizona.

Commissioner Frank Carbone said, “At least it’s worth getting the application in and finding out what’s really going to happen.”

Jayen Harkins, executive director of the Colorado River Commission, said current contracts for federal hydro-power expire Sept. 30, 2017. The Hoover Power Allocation Act of 2011 created a resource pool of contingent capacity and firm energy to be allocated to new allotees that will be marketed by WAPA. An informal public information meeting was first held back on June 19, 2012 in Phoenix.

In a prepared statement, VEA said, “Valley Electric Association is working collaboratively with Nye County, the Colorado River Commission and the Western Area Power Administration to discuss the county’s application for this partial power re-allocation program.”

“As the parties continue to work through this process, VEA’s job is to ensure no cost inequities are placed on its members as a result of local organizations that may participate in this program. VEA is always committed to serving the best interests of its member-owners.”

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