NV Energy’s gas and electric franchise agreements with the City of Reno are receiving scrutiny by the Reno City Council. A recent audit raised some issues.
“The biggest issue in terms of compliance…is the audit that was completed,” said Bill Thomas, assistant city manager.
“It was discovered that they pass the franchise fee through to the end-use customers,” an auditor noted. “NV Energy treats the franchise fees that are received from customers as a liability, rather than revenue, and remits these payments directly to the City.”
An attorney general’s opinion, however, had city staff recommend no further action on this item. The law supported NV Energy’s approach, city staff said.
“I have received a lot of concern and complaints from my constituents.”
But whether NV Energy is in compliance with the franchise agreements has yet to be determined, according to City Manager Sabra Newby.
Miscoded addresses led to NV Energy owing the city a quarter of a million dollars. The reason: The city’s property annexations created a disconnect between the city and the power company.
Addresses were miscoded, city staff said. “We may have an issue with our documentation. The miscoded list of customers was provided to NV Energy so their system could be updated to prevent this error in the future.”
NV Energy still had to pay up but without penalities.
“This came about as somewhat surprising to me,” said Councilmember Jenny Brekhus.
That’s not all. Councilmember Naomi Duerr had other concerns related to trees, removal of old poles, banners on street lights, community solar and payment for electricity for street lights. She said she made attempts to get information from NV Energy.
“The reason that I’ve supported initiating these conversations was that I have tried for two years to meet with NV Energy on how they trim trees — something very simple,” Duerr explained. “They had set meetings … it’d be on the agenda, and they wouldn’t show … We did this over and over, probably eight times in two years.
“I have received a lot of concern and complaints from my constituents,” she added.
Fires in California prompted a higher degree of concern, Duerr added. She said she received conflicting information from NV Energy.
“Even within NV Energy there seemed to be a disconnect with certain information about certain key issues that have been important to the council,” she said. “This is the magic moment where we have an ability to have that conversation. The kind of cooperative working together isn’t being very cooperative.”
The company’s response:
“NV Energy values our long-standing relationship with the City of Reno,” said the utility’s spokesperson Kristen Saibini. “We will continue to provide them with information as we work through the franchise agreement process.”
Saibini also noted that the City of Sparks had its council meeting this week and unanimously approved gas and electric franchise agreements for the next five years.
The city’s agreement with NV Energy expires later this month. Duerr directed staff to bring back to the city council how NV Energy is addressing the council’s concerns.
This article is published in partnership with the Reno News & Review. It appears online and in today’s print edition of the RNR.