Nevadans faced with choice on 2018 ballot
May 1, 2018
NV Energy has been the only option Nevada residents have when it comes to purchasing electricity since 1919.
At that time, the people of Nevada chose to trust a public utility with the state's power infrastructure and costs. Nevadans knew that it would be most economical for one company to build the first electrical grid. Giving up competition in the energy market, a monopoly was built that would provide service to all Nevadans. This worked for some time, but many argue that era has passed and a different energy market should be embraced.
Ballot question 3: The Energy Choice Initiative, proposes to break up the monopoly in the state and establish "an open and competitive retail electric energy market, reduce energy market regulations and prohibit energy monopolies."
"The simple act of providing choice," said Retail Energy Suppliers Association CEO Ned Ross. "It provides cheaper services and is more responsive and responsible to the consumer."
Ross is one of the advocates for the initiative, however he is originally from Austin, Tex., where energy choice has been in affect since 2002.
"The simple act of providing the consumer choice will provide you with better service right from the beginning," said Ross. "When you open up your market, and structure it right, if the legislator structure this right, you'll have tens of companies lined up to come in and join this market. You'll have different services and different products for electricity you never thought about."
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According to powertochoose.org many Texans have the option to choose from a variety of electric companies that best fit their needs and can receive additional services or promotions such as air conditioning maintenance, rewards programs or other customer service benefits.
To put the act into perspective, Ross explained the advancement of the telephone.
"The phone system was one company all across the country; the Bell system," said Ross. "There were improvements, but they were all slow coming and you had to get approval for new devices, and get people to buy them. When I went off for college, they had just started offering long distance service, that was a game changer, that was how this whole competition movement began. The Bell company was told they no longer have monopoly on long distance calls and are now going to have to compete for the business, and all the businesses came in who could arrange long distance calls and the prices varied a lot, so it's very similar to what is going on with electricity today."
"What we're trying to say is these old monopoly models are not great at moving quickly, they're not great at embracing technology and not great at adapting or pushing the envelope to provide you better service or a cheaper service," said Ross. "They're in the business of certainty, billing you and collecting money. That's the monopoly model in every industry. If you move away from that, you're going to have a system that is more responsive and more responsible to the consumer. When the competitor is not responsive to the consumer, the consumer is going to choose something else."
NV Energy, Inc. currently provides a wide range of energy services to 1.3 million customers throughout the state and more than 40 million tourists annually, according to NV Energy Inc.
In comments pertaining to question 3 on the State of Nevada Public Utilities Commission website, NV Energy argues that the uncertainty of free market choices will hurt Nevadans more than it will serve.
"The state of Texas was mentioned most often as the model Nevada could utilize; however there are significant differences between the two states and Texas deregulation efforts have led to major reliability and cost issues," said an NV Energy spokesperson. "While Nevada can learn from the mistakes of other states, there is simply no 'off-the-shelf' existing model or experience Nevada could follow and no easy path to remediate problems that may arise."
NV Energy estimates The Energy Choice Initiative would cost Nevadans billions of dollars in several costs for implementing Question 3, such as, but not limited to; stranded asset recovery, NV Energy workforce retention and downsizing, investments to remove reliability must-run generation conditions, establishment of an organized wholesale market, establishment of a data cleaning house and customer educational programs."
"The issues raised regarding uncertainties, risks and costs associated with implementing of Question 3 validate that the company's vision-one of continued rate stability, an aggressive commitment to further development of renewable energy recourses sited and built in the state of Nevada and a continued focus on improvement customer services- will serve Nevadans better than an uncertain system proposed by Question 3," said an NV Energy spokesperson.
In Nevada, initiated constitutional amendments need to be approved in two even-numbered election years. The Energy Choice Initiative passed by Nevada voters on the 2016 ballot by 72 percent. The initiative must pass again on the 2018 ballot to become a law.
For more information on The Energy Choice Initiative visit the State of Nevada Public Utilities Commission website, http://puc.nv.gov and visit powertochoose.org for more information on Texas' online energy choice model.