Jim Hartman: Question 6: Nevada mimics California
As I write this, election results in Nevada are not tabulated , but Question 6 is nearly certain to pass.
In 2018, Nevada voters approved (60%-40%) a constitutional amendment (Question 6) requiring state utilities to generate 50% of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030 — solar, geothermal and wind. Voters must approve a referendum during two consecutive general elections to codify it in the state constitution.
Up for a second vote on Nov. 3, GOP State Senate Leader James Settelmeyer forecasts: “It passed overwhelmingly last time and it will pass overwhelmingly this time.”
The referendum might seem moot since the Legislature in 2019 enacted a similar law establishing a 50% renewable mandate. Yet, progressive groups and the solar lobby push the constitutional amendment because they worry Nevada legislators will revisit the mandate if electricity rates surge, job growth slows, or power becomes less reliable.
All of these things have happened in California which started a fossil-fuel purge in 2010. It now has a renewable goal of 60% by 2030, and 100% by 2045.
In August, millions of Californians lost power as a result of California’s rolling “Green Blackouts.” The state’s increased dependence on intermittent renewables , especially solar, makes it harder to ensure reliable power.
When the sun starts to fall in early evening, the California energy grid is short of power – sometimes 25% to 50% of what it needs – to keep the lights on. As a result, California often relies on imported power from other states to fill the void — at very high “spot market” prices.
The power outages will get worse and more frequent as the state becomes more reliant on intermittent renewable energy — both solar and wind. Critics of the state’s renewable energy policy have coined a new word in California: “Greenout.”
All of this has caused electric prices in California to rise, while falling in Nevada which benefits from plunging natural gas prices. Since 2010, electric rates in California have jumped 30% for homes and 37% for manufacturers, and decreased 3% and 17%, respectively, in Nevada. Three-quarters of Nevada’s power comes from natural gas.
Higher electric costs in California have reduced job growth in power-intensive industries, particularly manufacturing. From January 2010 to January 2020, manufacturing employment increased 6% in California versus 55% in Nevada. Data centers for many tech companies have located in Nevada because of cheap, reliable power.
California’s antipathy even to natural gas and nuclear power has resulted in higher energy prices and now power shortages because renewables are intermittent energy sources. Many natural gas and nuclear plants that can generate power 24/7 have shut down because they can’t compete with heavily subsidized green energy.
Question 6 was put on the 2018 Nevada ballot by out-of-state California billionaire Tom Steyer. He poured nearly $11 million into a Nevada PAC , “Nevadans for a Clean Energy Future,” that he personally started to promote his initiative.
Californian Steyer subverted the intent of Nevada’s direct democracy process with his oversized checkbook to rewrite Nevada’s Constitution.
Question 6 locks language into the Nevada Constitution that recklessly puts ratepayers at risk and removes the Nevada legislature’s ability to judiciously apply its own judgment as circumstances change.
In 2017, Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a similar measure that also restricted types of energy consumption Nevadans would be forced to rely on. Sandoval wrote, “If these aggressive new energy policies are enacted, it is the ratepayer who bears the risk of increased rates.”
Meanwhile, progressives are opposing construction of the nation’s largest solar farm, the 7,100 acre Gemini project, east of Las Vegas.
Greens complain that the Mojave Desert habitat would be disturbed for the desert tortoise, kit fox and the Threecorner milkvetch, a rare plant.
Nevada needs large-scale solar to meet this new 50% Constitutional mandate by 2030—it currently generates 20% . How’s that going to be accomplished?
Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.