Our Nevada members may remember seeing Question 3 — the measure that opened the door to energy deregulation and massive job loss throughout the state — on the ballot in 2016. It was approved by voters, in no small part because the ballot language vastly oversimplified the sweeping nature of this change. It read, in its entirety:
“Shall Article 1 of the Nevada Constitution be amended to provide by law for the establishment of an open, competitive retail electric energy market that prohibits the granting of monopolies and exclusive franchise for the generation of electricity?”
Who wouldn’t vote for that? But Question 3 was the proverbial “Loaded Question,” designed to tempt Nevadans into believing they were earning a new Constitutional right by voting yes. Ultimately, its sponsors deceived voters into giving a thumbs up to completely deregulating Nevada’s retail and wholesale energy markets – and they offered no information on its devastating impact.
The measure is back for another vote this November, because Nevada law requires changes to the state constitution to be passed twice by voters — and for good reason. The so-called “Energy Choice Initiative” will wreak havoc on Nevada’s economy by harming small business, killing jobs now and for years to come, undoing important regulations that protect consumers, and undermining our clean energy goals – all in the name of “clean energy” and “choice.”
A closer look reveals dangerous consequences. By promising voters the right to choose their electricity provider “from a competitive retail electric market” and that they “shall not be forced to purchase energy from one provider,” Question 3’s sponsors opened the door to any and all energy providers who want to do business in our state. They have no responsibility to serve the public, no responsibility to ensure that all Nevadans are served, no responsibility to charge reasonable rates and no responsibility to make sure your service is reliable.
Perhaps more important for voters to consider is the information Question 3’s authors left out. Currently, customers can choose NV Energy, a provider Nevadans know and trust. But if the proposed changes are approved, the system will be flipped: energy providers will choose which customers they serve, instead of customers choosing their providers. This does not bode well for residential customers, especially those in rural areas, who are generally less preferred than corporate and industrial power consumers.
In addition, without the regulations in place now, there will not be any safeguards for low-income or other vulnerable customers, even if they want to keep their current energy provider. And the initiative left the establishment of any requirements for new providers up to the state legislature.
Question 3 also failed to inform voters about the hundreds of Nevadans who will lose their jobs now and in the future as a result of this measure, including many IBEW members. With new, freewheeling energy providers dominating the small market, IBEW 1245, which represents NV Energy workers and line contractors in the north, as well as IBEW 396, which represents the workers at Nevada Power, Valley Electric and line contractors in the South, could each immediately lose at least 150 good, middle class jobs with full benefits. Additionally, IBEW members from other locals stand to lose a number of jobs in transmission, substation and distribution work. And a significant portion of jobs filled by workers building natural gas-fired and renewable geothermal power plants are also at risk, along with the loss of ongoing infrastructure projects for the state. Over the next three to seven years, the measure would strip hundreds of thousands of hours of work from Nevada IBEW members who maintain and build infrastructure projects.
And while the measure claims to support “clean energy,” the constitutional changes would threaten current and future solar projects. As it stands now, IBEW utility locals can build these solar projects, producing energy for Nevadans that comes from Nevada facilities. In fact, NV Energy has already built several of their own solar plants with IBEW manpower, and purchases power from a number of other solar plants that were also built by IBEW members. But if Question 3 is approved this fall, new, shovel-ready solar projects will come to a halt, and future solar projects in the pipeline — and the jobs that come with them — will be in jeopardy.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Should this measure pass again in November, it could lower the quality of life for all Nevadans in significant ways, hurting taxpayers and small businesses that depend on reliable and safe energy. Other construction workers will no longer be needed to build the power plants required to ensure adequate electric supply, cities will lose revenue from franchise fees that NV Energy pays annually, and counties will lose significant revenue from property tax. The loss in revenue to local government could result in a change in staffing levels and significantly reduced service levels, affecting the things we all use, such as roads, parks, libraries and public safety.
Finally, higher power costs for small- and medium-sized businesses—which support middle-income jobs in the area—could lead to additional job loss, scaled back work hours, or a combination of both. Higher power costs also mean fewer dollars available for employee salaries and benefits. For residents, this will mean tightening the belt and reducing spending on basic needs like housing, food, health care, and transportation, as well as entertainment and discretionary spending, all of which fuel our local economy.
The good news is we can still stop this damage from happening. When Nevadans go to the polls this November, they have the opportunity to place the public good over the financial interests of new providers that are not bound to serve the public. Voters should vote “No” on the “Energy Choice Initiative” and keep our economy working for all Nevadans.
–Hunter Stern, IBEW 1245 Business Rep