I’ve had several problems with NV Energy during my 35 years in Nevada, I don’t like social issues championed by company owner Warren Buffet and I generally favor competitive markets. But even that won’t get me to vote for energy plans likely to hurt my budget and cause uncertainty for rural Nevadans.

Question 6, to lock a Renewable Portfolio Standard into Nevada’s constitution, is an easy no vote. Our legislature first adopted an RPS in 1997, later revising goals as technologies advanced. They’ll likely adjust goals again if renewable energy becomes more economical. But standards in the constitution cannot be changed, even for the better. A constitution is for defining citizens’ rights and providing a framework for state government, not details about operating businesses. Business regulations belong in the Nevada Revised Statutes.

If Q6 passes, renewable energy companies could still face opposition to projects near communities, like concerns expressed recently by Oreana residents regarding a solar project near their homes. While a few people object to anything near their house, legitimate questions exist about these projects. (One not mentioned in Oreana:  solar panels absorb the sun’s rays, but also reflect them, so would daytime temperatures rise in the area?)

 It’s ironic that the Q6 political action committee is called Nevadans for a Clean Energy Future, since it’s financed almost entirely by California billionaire Tom Steyer. He needs to focus on California’s many problems, not fabricate a Nevada crisis to “solve”. 

Question 3 - mandating creation of a competitive energy market -  is more complex, but has similar problems. This matter doesn’t belong in the constitution. All states that deregulated electricity did so through the legislative process. Many had good reasons to delay implementation of deregulation, but that couldn’t be done here if a timeline is locked into the constitution.

 Like Q6, Question 3 was crafted for special interests. Nevadans for Affordable Clean Energy Choices is funded largely by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and data company Switch. They want to produce their own electricity, but don’t want to pay exit fees required by 2001 legislation. Exit fees compensate NV Energy for exiting companies’ continued use of NV Energy’s transmission lines and help offset the loss of revenue to keep rates stable for small consumers.

Rates are the main argument in both sides’ advertising, each citing statistics from whichever deregulated state matches their position. But research by the nonpartisan Guinn Center for Policy Priorities found that with the complexity of this issue and uncertainty as to what regulations the Nevada Legislature might enact, it’s impossible to predict what would happen to rates. (Average Nevada rates are currently below the national average.)

The Guinn Center also found no relationship in other states between deregulation and increased use of renewable energy.

     The uncertainty Q3 could bring can’t be overstated. It isn’t just about rates and having choice. Deregulation means literally repealing all regulations relating to electricity generation and transmission, including

* The current application process and public hearings for rate increases. (The deregulated telephone company raises non-bundled rates with no notice.)

* NV Energy’s authority to enter into electricity purchase agreements. This could void current contracts, including a 50-year contract for cheap hydropower from Hoover Dam.

* Recently renegotiated solar net metering, allowing homes with new solar installations to sell excess energy.

My biggest concern about Q3 comes from rural Nevada’s history with telephone deregulation. AT&T was broken into smaller companies that retained exclusivity in their regions, while we were promised choice in long distance carriers. 

A service charge appeared on bills each month, which (then) Nevada Bell said was a federal fee to help make choice available. In northern Nevada, we paid that fee for years before any telecom company found it economically feasible to offer service here. Then larger carriers bought up competitors; rates went up, choices down. Things stabilized only with widespread cell phone use.

A similar scenario is likely under Q3. New power companies would focus on the Las Vegas and Reno metro areas, leaving most of Nevada with no choice for years. 

Over time companies would merge until only a few remained, less competition eventually leading to higher rates. 

We don’t know what would happen if no company is willing to supply electricity to northern Nevada. If the legislature forces one company to serve rural areas, it isn’t true deregulation or choice.

Q3 might help Switch and The Sands save money. But besides possible choices years from now, most Nevadans have nothing to gain and much to lose if this initiative passes.

Suzan Loda is a resident of Winnemucca.  She can be reached at suzan-uncommonsense @ outlook.com.