October 24, 2016 – by Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer, AFL-CIO of Nevada, came out strongly Monday against Nevada’s ballot Question 3 — to deregulate the state’s retail energy market — saying costs of energy will rise and Nevada’s will be forced to use more “dirty energy” such as coal.
Thompson, speaking on Nevada Newsmakers, pointed to problems in other states that have deregulated retail energy markets.
“Every state that has done this, the price of power went up,” Thompson said. “It didn’t go up a little bit, it went up significantly.”
Question 3 has seen little media attention, since ballot questions on background checks for guns and the legalization of recreational marijuana for those 21 and older have dominated the conversation.
Already, however, Nevada’s three largest newspapers — the Reno Gazette-Journal, Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Review-Journal, have all come out in favor of Question 3.
“Choice and competition in any economic arena ultimately benefit consumers,” wrote the LVRJ.
In advocating for Question 3, the RGJ notes that energy deregulation has been handled poorly in other states. However, “If done right, deregulation, will bring generally lower rates and more choice among providers for those who want it,” read a statement from the RGJ editorial board.
Thompson, however, said deregulation will eliminate Nevada’s portfolio standard that demands at least 25 percent of energy consumed must come from renewable sources.
“You are going to be buying dirty energy, where as right now, these lights (in the TV studio) are powered by about 21 percent or 22 percent renewables because that is where NV Energy is right now.”
Nevada currently uses a system of a regulated monopoly with NV Energy.
Proponents of Nevada energy deregulation have a long road ahead.
First, deregulation must pass a vote of the people this year and again in 2018. Then, the Nevada Legislature will be tasked with providing a system of energy deregulation in five years.
Question 3 provides for an eventual amendment to the Nevada Constitution to achieve energy deregulation and Thompson said the issue is too complicated for a constitutional amendment and will take years to change in the future.
“The problem with putting something in the (state) Constitution as complex as this is that the only way the Legislature can go back and change it is to amend the Constitution again, which is a five-year process to the people,” Thompson said. “And if they (state legislators) get it wrong, which often times happens, it would be impossible to make an adjustment without this lengthy process.”
Newsmakers host Sam Shad pointed out that deregulation of the airlines lowered the cost of flying. To that Thompson said:
“Electricity is something you need to live. Airlines are not and so that is the difference between those two types of regulations.”
Thomson was asked by Shad why NV Energy was staying neutral in the debate.
“They are put in a bad spot,” Thompson said of NV Energy. “It looks like it would be self-serving for them. They will still be here in a deregulated market. They will own all the (electrical) wires.”
In supporting Question 3, the RGJ editorial board noted Thompson’s concern about higher costs for Nevada consumers: “There are concerns that big energy users such as casinos would use deregulation to leave NV Energy and stick other ratepayers with the costs of infrastructure (think power lines). This is something the Nevada Legislature can address.”
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