Ballot Measure 3, which will be part of the November general election, Nov. 6, is a proposed constitutional amendment to give residents of Nevada the choice to select their own energy provider.
If your company raises rates, you can look for another company.
But opponents of the measure say, while it all sounds good, it is fundamentally flawed because it would force Nevada to dismantle its regulated electricity system – one of the most reliable and affordable in the nation – and replace it with a new, unknown system that would need to be established by the legislature and the courts.
Opponents also say Measure 3 would cost Nevada consumers and taxpayers billions, cause the loss of thousands of well-paying jobs, and disrupt Nevada’s progress toward a renewable energy future.
Lincoln County Power District (LCPD) General Manager Dave Luttrell made a PowerPoint presentation at the meeting of the board of county commissioners July 16, explaining what the measure is all about, what it would do, and what it would not do.
Luttrell spent time detailing what he sees to be the flaws in the measure for people living in rural Nevada.
He noted that, in 2016, voters faced the same bill and passed it by an overwhelming margin of over 70 percent approval, including Lincoln County. However, because it is to be a constitutional amendment, voters must approve it a second time before it becomes law by July 1, 2023.
However, Luttrell noted, voters passed the bill because the language looked appealing, with the idea of being able to shop around for lower power rates from competitive electric suppliers, “but the devil is in the details,” he said.
“I don’t want Lincoln County to make an uninformed vote this time. It’s not just about rates in Lincoln County, but in all of rural Nevada. I’m committed to informing people what they are voting for. It has nothing good for rural Nevada in it.”
Fourteen of Nevada’s rural electric providers oppose the measure. Only one, in Pahrump, supports it.
If the measure passes, “Big business will win,” Luttrell said. “Rural Nevada will lose.”
At the commission meeting, Luttrell asked the board to consider making a resolution “expressing its great concern of the impacts this constitutional amendment would have on Lincoln County and its residents and to encourage all voters to fully understand the meaning and impact of a vote for or against the measure beyond which is presented in campaign advertising.”
Commission chair Paul Donohue called for the issue to be an item on the agenda for the August 6 meeting.
In past months, Luttrell has been making numerous presentations in the county and other parts of the state to a number of concerned agencies and commission boards, acting as a spokesman for rural Nevada, explaining the measure and its flaws.
Varlin Higbee said he would seek to get Luttrell an opportunity to speak to the next meeting of the Nevada Association of Counties.
Commissioners spent nearly an hour listening to and discussing Luttrell’s presentation.
He said the issue is being pushed primarily in the legislature by major corporations in southern Nevada, specifically two Las Vegas billionaires, Sheldon Adelson of the Sands Corporation, and Rob Roy of Switch, “who don’t want to pay the very high exit fees of having to opt out of using NV Energy. Higbee said he felt the big corporations want to have the people of Nevada pay for it.
Luttrell further explained that a constitutional amendment would allow the big corporations to buy power for themselves at lower rates, but would require the people of Nevada to do the same thing and dismantle the state’s rural electric companies, who already provide power to their customers more inexpensively than it can be bought on the open market.
“Lower rates initially, maybe,” Luttrell noted, “but that is just the price per kilowatt hour. It is not including the cost of transmitting the power to the customer,” or in other words, “other fees are not included.”
Luttrell said the concept of different energy choices is not new. About 14 states, mostly in the northeast, do use it, “but no other states have gone that way since the late 1990s.”
He said in the states where it does exist, “it was done by law, not a constitutional amendment. Nevada would be the first.”
State laws allow for exemptions, Luttrell noted. An amendment to the state constitution does not allow for exemptions. “If you find later you don’t like it, it becomes very difficult to change the constitution. It takes at least six years. They don’t go backwards easily.”
Measure 3 would change the “virtual utility model,” he said.
Right now, Lincoln County Power is a full-service company, providing transmission lines, local distribution, maintenance, and customer service.
He said LCPD is local. “But if you were buying power from some small company in Texas, for example, if there is a problem, who is going to fix it? Who is going to be the provider of last resort, set the rates, and make future plans for supplying the county?”
In addition, he said, Lincoln County would no longer be able to receive power from Hoover Dam, where 80 percent of it comes from now. “Hoover Dam is a federal facility, and private utilities would not be able to purchase power there.”
In his presentation he referenced the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUCN), which recently conducted a series of hearings and studies in which the question was continually asked, “Is there anyone who would want to go on record to give assurance that this [Measure 3] will lower rates for residential families?”
Luttrell said, “Not once did the big Vegas corporations, who support the measure, get up and respond to that question.”
He said, “The language in Measure 3 implies rates will be lowered for a residential family, but they would not even go on record to backup that statement.”
Luttrell said the official final report of the PUCN concluded, “This initiative is likely to increase the residential rate for at least 10 years.”
Figures Luttrell gave in his presentation highlighted that rates would increase in rural areas about 43.7 percent, figuring in taxes and profit margin.
He said while he is trying to educate voters as to the meaning and impact if the measure passes, he is also working with certain state legislators on what to do to have rural providers, such as LCPD, “grandfathered” into already existing law.
Right now, he said, polls seem to be running 55 percent in favor of passing Measure 3, but it used to be 72 percent. “People are starting to wake up a lot more about what passing the measure would really mean for them. There is nothing good in it for rural Nevada.”