15 Las Vegas Strip properties unplugging from NV Energy grid

By The Associated Press

Nobody will flip a switch, and lights aren't expected to flutter on casino floors when 15 Las Vegas Strip properties start parting ways late Friday with NV Energy.

 

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nobody will flip a switch, and lights aren't expected to flutter on casino floors when 15 Las Vegas Strip properties start parting ways late Friday with NV Energy.

MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts are scheduled to start buying electricity Saturday from private providers on the open market after a yearlong effort to unplug from the state's dominant electric utility.

"From a reliability standpoint and a physics functionality standpoint, nothing changes," Erik Hansen, who oversaw Wynn's exit as director of energy procurement, told the Las Vegas Sun (http://bit.ly/2dwOl7T). "What changes is the transaction itself."

Combined, the casino companies represent about 6 percent of NV Energy's customer base.

Because their departures mark a significant decrease in electricity sales for the utility, state regulators required the companies to pay a collective $100 million in exit fees — about $87 million for MGM and $15 million for Wynn — to ensure that ratepayers don't have to bear the cost of their departure.

The Public Utilities Commission also has promised to assess recurring charges to the companies for six years as an additional protection to ratepayers.

The two companies argue that the move will slash bills and boost renewables.

NV Energy, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, still will provide backup services and transmit the power through the grid.

Wynn Resorts owns the Wynn and Encore resorts. MGM Resorts owns Mandalay Bay, Delano, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Luxor, Excalibur, Circus Circus, Vdara, Aria, Bellagio, The Mirage and the MGM Grand.

Casino company Sands Las Vegas Corp. also received permission to leave NV Energy but backed out.

The owner of the Venetian and Palazzo resorts and the Sands Expo and Convention Center instead supported and helped fund the Energy Choice Initiative, a ballot measure to restructure Nevada's electricity market. The measure would create an open market and end NV Energy's monopoly on power supply by the early 2020s.

Despite high upfront costs, MGM and Wynn officials say the move will let them purchase power at lower prices.

"You will always save money going wholesale," Hansen said.

MGM already receives some of its energy from a large rooftop solar array at Mandalay Bay.

Cindy Ortega, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer, said the company will explore contracts with large-scale solar plants and look at future applications for energy-storage batteries.

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