Green groups come out against Nevada retail choice ballot measure
- Environmental advocates who had remained neutral throughout Nevada's debate over whether to establish a retail choice market are now speaking up, warning that a restructuring of the state's electricity markets will upend a proposal by NV Energy to dramatically increase the state's renewable resources.
- Voters in November will consider Question 3, a constitutional amendment to do away with regulated monopolies. The proposal was developed to spur renewable energy growth, but the environmental groups fear the change could have the opposite effect.
- Earlier this summer, NV Energy rolled out a proposal to double Nevada's renewable energy — but only if voters reject the ballot initiative. With that offer on the table, environmental advocates are now calling on voters to oppose the measure.
As recently as April, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) was neutral on Question 3, arguing that a growing renewable energy was not dependent on any particular utility business model. Senior scientist Dylan Sullivan told Utility Dive, "building large-scale renewable energy power plants and developing good programs can be done under either regulatory model."
But that was before NV Energy — who was also neutral until an initial vote on the concept passed — rolled out a proposal to double its renewable energy. Now NRDC and other groups say the multi-year disruption of overhauling the state's energy markets will do more harm than good.
In a statement released Thursday, Sullivan and representatives from three other groups called for voters to reject the November proposal.
“Question 3 has been sold to voters as a way to get more renewable energy online in Nevada, but it will actually make it more difficult," Sullivan said. "There will be years of market uncertainty as the legislature figures out how to implement complex restructuring, and even after that electricity retailers have shown a reluctance to sign the long-term contracts it takes to get new renewables built."
The Sierra Club, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project and Western Resource Advocates also announced they opposed the ballot initiative. The groups say a deregulated market would "interrupt NV Energy’s commitment" to double renewable resources by 2023, endanger utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs and introduce uncertainty into the state’s residential solar market.
“If Question 3 passes, it will upend the clean energy progress we’re making here in Nevada," Anne Macquarie, chair of Sierra Club’s Toiyabe Chapter, said in a statement. NV Energy has aggressive plans for new solar and the rooftop market is recovering since the restoration of net metering rates after a 2015 reduction, she said.
"But that may all change. The uncertainty of a deregulated market threatens all of Nevada’s clean energy momentum, and that’s bad for jobs, it’s bad for public health and it’s bad for clean air and water," Macquarie said.
Two years ago, voters approved the amendment, but Nevada law says amendments must be approved in consecutive elections. NV Energy largely stayed out of the fight in 2016, but has committed millions to defeat Question 3 in November.
Follow Robert Walton on Twitter