Power is money (metaphorically speaking)

Physics provided an influential metaphor during the 20th century and undoubtedly will remain important in the 21st.

Observation tells me, however, that the metaphor was misapplied and is morphing subtly from Albert Einstein’s relativity toward more recent theories. Trust me, readers, we’ll hook this up with Nevada.

Einstein turned thought on its head with relativity and his famous E=MC2 equation to explain energy. Shoddy interpretations took relativity to mean everything is relative, but Einstein wasn’t buying.

He trotted out the name of the ultimate absolute in a later debate with fellow physicists, saying God doesn’t play dice with the universe, and he kept working on a unified field theory. Still elusive, that pursuit led others toward string theory.

String theory exceeds the scope of my talent or this article, but basically builds on relativity toward a view of energy and the physical as integrated. It’s not so much that all is relative as it is that everything is related.

Let’s look at energy pragmatically, not just as it is pondered, and consider that it can build a better, greener future in Nevada with help from the electric utility NV Energy.

Dervish-like activity is underway at NVE due to a disciplined board and management team. No doubt many are involved, but I’ll focus on three top players: Philip Satre, board chairman; Michael Yackira, president/chief executive officer; and Thomas Fair, vice president for renewable energy.

Satre, an attorney and former Harrah’s Entertainment executive, joined the casino company in 1980 as vice president, general counsel and secretary.

Stanford and UC Davis-educated, the Reno barrister rose to head Harrah’s gaming division and then the overall company as president/CEO and, eventually, board chairman. He left in 2005 and became chairman at the utility.

Yackira, a New York City native, came to Nevada by way of Florida. An accountant by trade and executive by professional aplomb, he was educated at Lehman College, City University of New York City.

His background includes finance, operations, and regulatory matters in telecommunications, oil and gas, and utilities. Posts with the Florida utility FPL Group included FPL Energy president and FPL Group chief financial officer.

He joined NVE, when it was Sierra Pacific Resources, in 2003 to head strategy and policy. By 2007, he was president, chief operating/executive officer and on the board. I met him in 2008 as he announced conversion from Sierra Pacific Resources to NV Energy in a rebranding move.

Yackira is the real deal. FPL Group is a leader at expanding non-fossil fuel electric power, and he learned the pitfalls and advantages involved while there.

Fair, with 35 years in electric power, also spent part of his career at FPL Energy and FPL Group.

Fair joined NVE in 2004 as director of environmental services and rose to VP for renewable energy. His educational background includes architecture, urban planning and business administration, with degrees from three universities.

Recent NVE deals are with Reno’s Ormat Technologies for more geothermal power, Renewable Energy Systems-Americas for wind power development, Solar Millennium and SolarReserve for solar power, CC Landfill Energy for landfill gas-powered energy in Las Vegas, and Sensus for system-wide smart grid metering.

NVE secured a $138 million federal smart grid infrastructure grant late last year.

Physicists like Einstein try to model reality to unravel mysteries. Great minds never rest. After his relativity triumph, Einstein wouldn’t give up on pondering his elusive unified field theory, believing: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

I bet NV Energy leadership is on the same philosophical page in the drive toward green power.