Sierra Pacific says Nevada’s energy supply is stable |

Sierra Pacific says Nevada’s energy supply is stable

by Linda Hiller

California’s energy woes are causing Nevada power producers to take notice, but no one is predicting the same fate for our state yet.

“We are certainly watching California with concern, and we don’t want to repeat their mistakes, but we’re in good shape as far as our supplies go,” said Karl Walquist, public information officer for Sierra Pacific Power. “We have sufficient energy available to service our customers from power plants in Nevada as well as our long-term contracts with other utilities. On occasion, when we’ve had surplus power, we put it on the California market – we did that in December.”

Walquist said Sierra Pacific typically produces around half of its energy and buys half from out of state. Many factors determine this percentage, he said, including the weather in other states.

“During the year, if, say, it has been a wet year in the Pacific Northwest and they have a lot of surplus power there, it is cheaper for us to purchase from them,” he said. “Unfortunately, it hasn’t been a wet year there so far, but we do have contracts with other utilities like Idaho Power Co.”

Walquist said that in 1999, 46.2 percent of Sierra Pacific’s energy was produced in Nevada power plants and 53.8 percent was imported. Of the locally produced energy, 28 percent came from natural gas and oil plants in Tracy and Fort Churchill and 17 percent was produced by the Valmy coal plant. Less than 1 percent was produced by a small hydroelectric plant Sierra Pacific runs on the Truckee River off Interstate 80 north of Reno, he said.

“Right now, we are producing around 80 percent of the power from our power plants for our customers,” Walquist said. “It’s the most economical way to go.”

While rising natural gas prices will affect electricity costs, unlike California, Nevada averages fuel costs over the course of a year and price increases for customers are capped by the global settlement through February 2003.

n Report coming up. Next week, Gov. Kenny Guinn and other state officials will hear a report from a governor-appointed committee on energy policies for Nevada. Among the recommendations will be a provision to make sure there are programs for low-income Nevadans to purchase power, recommendations on an energy conservation policy for Nevada and a policy to support using renewable resources including solar and wind power and recommendations regarding the coming deregulation of energy companies in Nevada.

n Learn to conserve. Walquist said Sierra Pacific and Nevada Power Co. are launching efforts to communicate with customers about rising energy prices and a host of other utility issues affecting electric and natural gas consumers throughout the United States.

Information and tips on energy conservation are available on either of the company’s Web sites or services/energy. Call or visit the Minden office, 1758 Highway 395, Suite L, 782-2541; (800) 964-0406.