CUSTOMERS SHOULD BE ABLE TO SHOP FOR ELECTRICTY – A RURAL UTILITY’S RESPONSE
During the first week of April, Thomas Mitchell’s weekly commentary was titled “Customers should be able to shop for electricity.” The commentary was a general support of the Energy Choice initiative. This initiative will appear as Question 3 on the November ballot. Like many of you who read his column, I respect Thomas as a columnist and generally agree with his commentaries. But in this case I think he overlooked an important issue. The underlying basis for his overall conclusion is that competition is good and that it usually leads to lower costs. Therefore, by extension he concludes Energy Choice should be good in rural Nevada. I too generally support competition, but what Thomas and others sometimes forget is the unique nature of the rural electric utilities operating in Nevada and how Energy Choice will affect the folks served by these rural utilities.
In the days following the publication of his column, I struck up a dialog with Thomas on the unintended impacts of Energy Choice. True to his nature, he was willing to consider a different perspective. My arguments to Thomas generally revolve around two issues. Governance and rates. First, I contend that Energy Choice will essentially eliminate decision making by locally elected rural electric utility boards. Second, I believe Energy Choice will actually increase the cost of electric service for the current customers served by these rural electric utilities.
Let’s start with the governance issue. Most rural Nevadans are served by a rural electric utility, not by the investor-owned utility (IOU) serving Las Vegas, Henderson, Reno, or Carson City. Rural electric utilities are not-for-profit power districts or cooperatives. In either case, we were created by and for the people we serve. We serve our friends, neighbors and communities. Our decisions are made by our customers, by participating in our local meetings and serving on our boards. In contrast an IOU is a for-profit business with shareholders. They are in the business to make money for their shareholders. The IOU’s decisions are made by a board of directors and a parent company based in Nebraska. I fully understand why someone in Las Vegas or Reno would want competition.
But rural utility customers already have a voice in how we operate, where we buy power from, and how we set rates. If our customers don’t like what we are doing, they vote in new board members. If Energy Choice passes, that decision making authority will largely shift from rural Nevada to four new parties. The first will be the new business which will sell energy. Under Energy Choice these are called retail energy providers. They will most likely be an out-of-state, for-profit corporation. The second party will be the Public Utility Commission of Nevada. They will regulate the rates in Nevada for energy from the retail energy providers and the power line maintenance charge for rural electric utilities who will be relegated to just owning, operating, and maintaining the local wires. The third party is most likely the California Independent System Operator. They operate the only wholesale market in the entire western U.S. and will likely operate the wholesale market in Nevada. The final party will be the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who will regulate the rates of the wholesale market. The decisions that are currently done in rural Nevada, under Energy Choice will be done in Carson City, California, Washington, D.C. and in the board room of an out-of-state corporation.
Now let’s turn to the rates issue. The electric power rural Nevadans receive from their local utility is largely from Federal hydropower generated from either the Columbia River or the Colorado River systems. Allocations of Federal hydropower are by law or regulation limited primarily to public, not-for-profit organizations such as rural electric utilities. Federal hydropower creates very little carbon emission and is among the lowest priced wholesale energy available. The retail energy providers, who will be the new companies selling energy in rural Nevada, will not have access to this Federal hydropower. They will be buying much higher priced natural gas or other types of generation on a wholesale market designed by Californians for Californians, adding a profit margin to that power, and then paying a wires charge to the local rural electric utility to have that energy delivered. It is pretty clear the price rural Nevadans will pay for electric service under Energy Choice will not be less than the current rates they pay for service. Which, by the way, are already less than the rates paid in states with Energy Choice, including Texas which is touted as the poster child for Energy Choice success with its average residential rate of 10.85 cents/kwh.
David Luttrell is general manager of the Lincoln County Power District #1, president of the Nevada Rural Electric Association and a member of the Governor’s Committee on Energy Choice
In the April 6, 2018 edition of this paper, the current District Attorney, Daniel Hooge, had a paid political ad in which he purports to be tough on crime and focused on prosecuting domestic violence cases, reducing plea bargaining and arguing for tougher sentences against abusers.
The April 6 issue also contained an article pertaining to the home invasion at Atlanta Farms on March 9 of this year. The article contains several erroneous statements. The first two suspects did not, in fact, plead guilty to the charges filed against them. In the D.A.’s plea agreement with the suspect who battered my grandson at Atlanta Farms, the D.A. agreed to DISMISS THE HOME INVASION CHARGE and the BATTERY THAT CONSTITUTES DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (for striking his ex-wife in front of at least one of their children) – his second offense. In addition, the suspect was allowed to plead to “assault” instead of battery, which allows him to state he “swung a metal pipe at my grandson’s head” and “unlawfully attempted to use physical force and/or intentionally placed him in reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm.” If required to plea to the Battery charge, which was dismissed, the suspect would have had to admit he did, in fact, strike my grandson with a steel pipe and cause a head injury which required staples (no conflicting witness statements on this subject to the best of my knowledge).
The D.A. dismissing the Home Invasion and Domestic Violence charges, in my opinion, is counter-productive to protecting the people of Lincoln County since you can obviously invade someone’s home and inflict bodily harm and get away with it. I am not sure the suspect’s wife or any other person who has ever suffered from domestic abuse would agree with the D.A. dismissing that charge, as it gives the perception that a person can commit an act of domestic violence without fear of retribution – or is that a selective application of the law on the part of our Ranking Law Enforcement Officer, the D.A.
When I asked D.A. Katschke why the suspect was not required to plead to Battery as charged, he told me he did not feel he could win the case due to conflicting witness statements (see above); he stated he does not have a good track record with those cases.
The first suspect was released on an O.R. on the 2nd of April and arrested in Utah on the 8th in violation of his O.R. agreement and was back walking the streets of Pioche the next day. My entire family is comforted by the thought he is out among us with apparent carte blanche to do as he wishes.
The second published article also states the third suspect “is presently on the run.” As a matter of fact, the S/O knew he was back in Pioche shortly after his return and not “on the run” on April 2 when the plea agreement was executed by the parties.
Some of us in Pioche have been having some related fun in connection with this paper’s original article regarding the home invasion, as two public employees saw fit to post comments on the Record’s web site wherein the PPU Office Manager questioned whether it would be wrong for him to put money on the suspects’ books as a reward for battering my grandson and the PPU Office Manager dared me (through these posts to my family) to report her to the board cause she can do what she wants in her off time. In fact, PPU Policy and the County’s Policies and Procedures prohibit these acts. When the Town Board refused to consider my request for disciplinary action, I consulted the D.A.’s Office and was told they could not implement discipline due to first amendment rights. SO, I GUESS ALL THE EMPLOYEES COVERED BY THE COUNTY’S POLICIES AND PROCEDURES are now allowed to engage in conduct unbecoming an employee and violate established policies without fear of retribution. In my opinion, this is a very dangerous precedent for the D.A.’s office to set.