| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Nevada will likely save money and
surely cut pollution if it goes for renewable power instead of
building three huge coal power plants as proposed, an
independent economic consultancy said on Tuesday.
ECONorthwest said uncertainty over higher construction
costs and the value of what the group says is an inevitable tax
on carbon dioxide emissions will cause the cost of coal power
to skyrocket as wind, solar, and geothermal power costs
Currently, renewable power is costlier to generate than
coal and unlike the black rock that now provides about 13
percent of Nevada's power is not a "baseload" source -- a large
plant that can run around the clock.
Renewable power paired with a more aggressive energy
efficiency program will mean "Lower costs and lower risks for
ratepayers and probably will produce a higher number of job
opportunities for Nevadans," Ernie Niemi, ECONorthwest analyst
and primary author of the report, said during a Tuesday
telephone press conference.
The report by ECONorthwest of Eugene, Oregon, is titled
"Economic Analysis of Nevada's Future Electricity-Generating
Alternatives" and can be viewed at www.econw.com.
David Sims, director of project development for Sierra
Pacific Resources, which owns both major Nevada utilities, said
the report is a "rehash" of old studies given by a collection
of environmental groups last year before the Nevada Public
Utility Commission, which must approve all power projects.
"The report ignores the fact that we are closing 300
megawatts of coal power in southern Nevada," Sims said.
Sierra Pacific is adding $2 billion by 2015 in renewable
power projects and already has an active energy efficiency
program Sims says is undersubscribed by customer option.
While Tom Darin of Western Resource Advocates in Boulder,
Colorado, said a combination of solar, wind and geothermal
power can support building large transmission lines, Sims said
the baseload of coal-fired power is needed before a
north-to-south large power transmission line is built.
Sims said Sierra expects the cost of emitting carbon to be
between $4 and $6 per ton, based on testimony of experts before
the Nevada PUC last year, making it less volatile than natural
John O'Donnell, executive vice president solar thermal
developer Ausra Inc. of Palo Alto, California, said some
studies show the cost of CO2 emissions will be $20 per ton.
"In five years, we believe (Ausra) will be directly
competitive with coal-fired power plants," said O'Donnell.
"Within the next five years, some cost of carbon emissions will
come to the U.S. market."
Ausra is competing with several other solar thermal power
companies in the U.S. West to build plants of 500 megawatts and
bigger, including two Israel-based firms: Solel Solar Systems
and BrightSource Energy.
The proposed plants are the 1,600-megawatt White Pine plant
by LS Power Group, the 1,500-MW Ely Energy Center by Sierra
Pacific Resources, and the 750-MW Toquop Energy Project by
Sithe Global Power, which is owned 80 percent by Blackstone
Group and 20 percent by Reservoir Capital Group.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Gary Hill)
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