Additional cuts to utility bills could be on the way, top energy regulator says


Empty coal cars as seen at the NV Energy coal fired Reid Gardner Generating Station on Thursday, March 16, 2017. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

By Riley Snyder

Nevadans could soon see additional benefits from the Republican-backed tax bill in the form of lower utility bills — and not just through reduced electric costs.

In addition to moving forward with NV Energy’s request to cut electric bills by an average of $4 a month for electric customers, Nevada Public Utilities Commission Chairman Joe Reynolds said he’s opening up a docket to study the effects of the tax bill — which cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent — on the state’s other publicly regulated utilities.

In a letter to state Consumer Advocate Ernest Figueroa sent Tuesday, Reynolds responded to the concern that state ratepayers would be forced to overpay tens of millions of dollars to publicly regulated utilities, including NV Energy, if the commission failed to address the savings that utility companies will realize through the tax cut.

Reynolds said that it was a “priority” for the commission to approve a new set of lowered rates to reflect the tax cut, but said the commission wouldn’t cut corners in analyzing the impact.

“Ensuring Nevada taxpayers receive any appropriate rate reduction as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a priority for the PUCN,” Reynolds wrote in the letter. “However, that process must be conducted in a thoughtful manner consistent with the balancing of interests that is required in Nevada law.”

Reynolds said that while potential benefits of the tax bill on energy prices were already being discussed in other dockets, he would also open a separate investigatory docket to look into the applicability of the corporate tax cuts for other public utilities — including natural gas, propane, geothermal energy and telecommunications services — in the state.

Typically, Nevada utilities regulated by the PUC submit a set of proposed rates to the commission every three years, with a month-long process allowing members of the public and interested parties to weigh in before the commission makes a decision. However, NV Energy’s most recent rate case was approved by the commission in late December, and just days after President Donald Trump signed the tax bill into law.

Several entities, including NV Energy and Figueroa, wrote to the commission in January requesting that they revisit the newly approved rates in light of the new tax bill.

The commission has also scheduled a March 16 hearing for NV Energy’s application to reduce their electric rates. The company asked the PUC last week to approve the changes by April 1.

PUCN Tax Cut and Jobs Act letter 022118 by Riley Snyder on Scribd

Disclosure: NV Energy has donated to The Nevada Independent. You can see a full list of donors here.

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