What is Question 3?
Nevada law authorizes a single utility, currently NV Energy, to provide electric service to customers. In return, the company must guarantee service to all customers, provide support to low-income customers, meet safety and reliability standards and request permission to change rates. In order to spare themselves some hefty payments, a group of billionaires have proposed a scheme to change our state’s Constitution and throw out this balanced approach.
Question 3 directs the Legislature to enact laws providing for the establishment of a deregulated system by the year 2023. Question 3 does not set any rate or price structure. The only rationale for Question 3 is to enable its wealthy backers to avoid paying their fair share under the current system.
The Nevada constitution is not the place to redesign energy distribution. Question 3 is a vague, poorly written measure sure to be challenged as unconstitutional. It will cause costly ongoing legal battles over implementation. This is simply not the kind of idea we want to write into our state Constitution.
Competition usually benefits consumers, but that is not the case with energy. California tried a plan like this one in 2000, with disastrous results. Market manipulation led to an 800 percent increase in electricity prices in just eight months – and to skyrocketing utility bills, rolling blackouts, and the Enron scandal. It cost taxpayers 45 billion dollars to fix. Question 3 would lead Nevada into the same mess.
Rates for most Nevada residents are likely to go up. The big businesses behind Question 3 say it is about promoting competition. But while big businesses might be able to negotiate lower rates, the average resident doesn’t have the time, expertise or power to do so.
Deregulation means gambling with power service. Right now, Nevada has a stable, reliable electric system that provides power when it’s needed. Under Question 3, that system will be replaced with a patchwork of companies cutting corners to compete more cheaply. That means less reliable energy and more frequent power outages. It means a ‘hit or miss’ transition to green energy.
Deregulation costs jobs as companies cut costs or buy electricity from out of state to compete. In Nevada, Question 3 could mean layoffs for hundreds of workers. These middle class jobs are the backbone of our economy and we shouldn’t risk them in the middle of a recovery.
Seniors, the poor and rural residents will all lose under this new scheme. By promoting a free-for-all, no-rules hunt for customer dollars, companies can simply choose not to serve customers who aren’t profitable, like those in rural areas. Exposure to the volatile energy market raises the risk of sudden spikes in prices. Question 3 would hurt rural residents and seniors on fixed incomes the most.