The PUC is required by Nevada law to hold a session annually to gather comments, concerns and ideas from the public.
The crowd, including about 20 residents and representatives from NV Energy, Southwest Gas and AT&T, expressed support for using alternative energy. They also brought stories of personal experiences working with the utilities to the attention of the PUC representatives.
James Bowers, who lives in Douglas County, talked about continuous interruptions of power and said he has visited NV Energy’s Yerington office on several occasions.
“I heard it was wind blowing the trees,” Bowers said. “It went out yesterday, it went out Sunday. It’s not a weather-related problem. All our electronics and clocks and computers keep going off. It’s happening way too much. I’m wondering if you’re aware of it and if you can do anything about it.”
Tom Bird, who retired as a journeyman from NV Energy three years ago, said he was concerned about the company’s cutback of retiree benefits, as well as a shrinking staff and an increasing coverage area.
“As many of us know, poles and wires in many of the areas cannot be replaced,” Bird said. “Trees aren’t routinely trimmed and, I might add, budgets have fallen. … Costs are climbing everywhere. We are not unique to the problem. It’s a national problem we’re all facing. My point today is what’s going on with NV Energy need not affect the customers, myself being a customer.”
Others discussed being overcharged for services. Robin Palmer and her husband installed solar panels on their home and they’re generating too much energy for just the two of them to use. Palmer said although the cost isn’t much, she still pays more than $8.
“We can’t sell it back,” Palmer said. “We get credit for it. That bar graph on your bill that shows what you’re using? We never have any bars. … It’s a thorn in my side that we have to pay anything.”
The PUC is an impartial organization working between the utilities and the ratepayers. Much of its business is handled like a court case hearing, said PUC spokesperson Sean Sever, who offered a brief presentation highlighting various conservation measures and an explanation of why natural gas prices in Nevada are everchanging.
“We have worked with the utilities to lessen the effect of rising energy costs,” Sever said, adding that a 6.9 percent rate increase was implemented this year in Clark County.
“Natural gas prices are volatile because of (Nevada’s extreme temperatures), world events, the price of oil, the economy and dwindling supplies,” Sever said. “The utilities don’t make any profit on purchased fuel costs. It’s passed on dollar for dollar after the PUCN audit takes place.”
Reno resident Mary Winston, a contractor, made suggestions that met with approval from other residents, such as green-energy training for contractors.
“We know for every dollar we invest in conservation, we can reap three in energy savings,” she said. “My problem is we have no programs here to encourage people to conserve at the level that we’re capable of conserving. … You don’t know how many green buildings I’ve audited and found out they (weren’t green).”
Palmer encouraged others to follow her example and talked about the Silver State’s alternative energy potential.
“Nevada has the resources to make it a leader in green energy,” she said.