Transmission poses challenge as Nevada's geothermal companies look to future

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If we build it, will they come?

That’s the challenge Nevada faces as it looks to shore up its electric transmission capacity and maintain the sizzling pace of renewable energy development in the state.

It’s an undertaking that becomes even more crucial as the state’s main energy provider, NV Energy, gets closer to meeting its renewable portfolio standard, or RPS, requirement.

Nevada law requires the utility to get 25 percent of the energy it sells from renewable sources by 2025. NV Energy has made steady progress, and has a current rate of about 11 percent, according to the Nevada Institute for Renewable Energy Commercialization.

But even with the remaining 14 percent needed to reach the standard, local demand is nowhere near what’s needed to support the kind of large-scale renewable energy development Nevada envisions for diversifying its economy.

“Quite frankly, demand in Nevada is quite small to begin with given its population of just 2.6 million people,” said Jim Croce, president and CEO of NIREC. “So you’re looking at a small market and the only real buyer (NV Energy) is reaching its limit. Unless they raise the RPS requirement even more, the only way renewable energy development can continue in the state is by finding another market, which is difficult because it’s dependent on transmission development.”

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