Energy bill lights up election season | NevadaAppeal.com

Energy bill lights up election season

Steve Ranson
LVN Editor Emeritus

Business leaders attending the monthly Churchill Economic Development Authority breakfast were told last week that the passage of Nevada Question 3 may hurt Nevadans more than it will help.

Mike Robertson, the Northern Nevada outreach coordinator for the Coalition to Defeat Question 3, gave business leaders information on the ballot measure. He said approval of Question 3 would allow the state Legislature to create a competitive energy market in place of NV Energy's monopoly by July 2023. Passage would also amend the Nevada Constitution in how energy is regulated in the state.

Nevadans voted on Question 3 two years ago during the general election and must vote for the ballot measure again. If it passes, the Nevada Legislature will then deal with changing the numerous laws and regulations associated with energy. NV Energy and many chambers of commerce and government groups oppose Question 3, while numerous casino interests in Southern Nevada and Switch Data Center, which is headquartered in Las Vegas and has. Both sides have spent millions of dollars to promote their positions.

Essentially, a yes vote would direct the Legislature to create a competitive energy market, and a no vote leaves the market in its present state. A Guinn Center report said pricing, however, could be determined how the measure is implemented and what type of oversight is needed.

Mary Simmons, NV Energy's vice president of Business Development and Community Strategy, spoke first, saying NV Energy has reduced rates 15 percent since 2009. She said rates are 9 percent lower in Nevada than the other mountain states, while California's monthly costs for consumers are almost twice as much as Nevada's.

Robertson said the opposition to Question 3 has produced some strange bedfellows. At one end of the spectrum, the mining industry opposes Question 3 as does the Sierra Club. Sen. Dean Heller, Attorney General Adam Laxalt and former Sen. Harry Reid are in favor of the measure.

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"The Coalition is opposed to Question 3 because we feel this is costly and risky," he said.

If passed, Robertson said would costs upward to $4 billion to dismantle reliable power companies in Nevada to include the rural co-ops that mostly supply power in eastern Nevada. He said the state would enter into a partnership with the State of California to buy wholesale power that would cost twice as much as what is paid today.

"First thing that will happen is that NV Energy and any rural co-op will be forced to divest generating interests, power plants and any agreements," he said.

Robertson said passage would also undo all the work the Legislature did with alternative energy such as solar. He said NV Energy has unveiled a plan, a $2 billion investment to have three solar sites in Northern Nevada and three in Southern Nevada. The additional solar sites, he said, will increase renewable energy from 20 to 40 percent.

Roberson said 24 states deregulated energy but only 14 still have a plan in place. Texas faced a similar situation, and Robertson said the promise for a $2 billion windfall to deregulate electricity turned into a $10 billion loss.

Robertson predicts passage of Question 3 could result in numerous lawsuits.

While Churchill County residents receive their power from NV Energy, the city of Fallon buys its power from out of state. NV Energy said the city could be subjected to the prices offered in the market.