LAS VEGAS (AP) The light bulb went on when the power went out in Las Vegas.
A blackout that left 10,000 Las Vegas customers without electricity for up to 45 sweltering minutes earlier this month stripped away the Neon Citys feeling that what is going on in California cant happen here.
I left California to get away from this, said Wendy Albert, who moved to Las Vegas from Pasadena, Calif., in June.
Nevada Power Co. was among those caught off guard July 2. Soaring temperatures of at least 113 degrees and four generating plant failures forced it to pull the plug in the first such blackout the utility has ever had.
The Las Vegas Strip never stopped glittering because the resorts have their own generators to keep air conditioners humming and the eye-popping neon lights glowing.
Even before the blackout, conservation measures were well under way on the Strip because of rising electricity rates. But the episode seemed to get everyones attention, prompting still more energy-saving measures in this city famous for its excess.
The Bellagio hotel-casinos dancing water fountains, for example, spouted off every half-hour instead of every 15 minutes during the week of the Fourth of July. At the Paris Las Vegas hotel-casino, the 50-story, half-size replica of the Eiffel Tower is now illuminated only five hours a day, instead of around the clock.
To avoid more blackouts, Nevada Power has presented a plan to buy more power from privately operated generating stations planned in Nevada over the next three years.
However, Tim Hay, consumer advocate for the Nevada attorney generals office, said the utility needs to build more of its own power plants to give Nevada folks a safety net, an insurance policy.
Nevada thought it had learned some lessons from Californias botched experiment with deregulation. Last year, Gov. Kenny Guinn postponed the states own move to deregulate, and the Legislature this spring followed up by halting deregulation for residential users altogether.
In recent months, resorts up and down the Strip have been relamped with more energy-efficient light bulbs, and smart thermostats control guest rooms.
Casino corporations like MGM Mirage, the largest owner of Strip resorts, budgeted 18 percent more for energy costs this year and expect to spend a total of about $39 million. The Stardust hotel-casino, home to Wayne Newton, said $700,000 in higher energy costs during the second quarter hurt its earnings. And most of the citys hotels have imposed a $3-per-night surcharge on rooms to help cover rising costs.
A 38 percent rate increase since last July for commercial and residential customers has consumers conserving, too. The customer who was paying about $110 a month for electricity for a three-bedroom home a year ago is shelling out about $150 this year, according to Nevada Power.
I dont use my air conditioning unless someone comes to visit, and then I set it at 80 degrees, said 70-year-old Judy Root.
Last month, the Clark County school district the nations sixth-largest ordered most campuses shuttered every afternoon to save as much as $700,000 in July alone. Many schools in the district are on a year-round schedule.
The owner of the Las Vegas Ice Garden cut afternoon skating hours.
Last year, our power bill in the summer period was about $17,000 per month, rink owner Bob Wessels said. This year, it will be about $30,000 per month.
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