By PETE J. GOICOECHEA
Nevada State Senator, District 19
There’s been a lot of discussion across Nevada about Question 3, a Constitutional Amendment on our statewide ballot this November that would dismantle Nevada’s existing electricity system and replace it with a new, unknown system established by the legislature and the courts.
The reality is we don’t really know exactly what we are voting on with Question 3. The Amendment provides no details on how Nevada’s new electricity system would work, and the proponents have not offered any sort of plan of their own. Instead, the ballot measure would lock a risky and costly experiment into the state constitution and create an uncertain electric system that even the proponents admit would not guarantee the lower electric rates they’ve been promising.
What we do know is our existing energy providers would disappear if Question 3 were to pass. The rural electric co-ops that many of our communities participate in aren’t protected under Question 3. The state’s major providers would be forced to sell its power plants and cancel long-term energy agreements, many of which are for renewable energy projects built right here in Nevada.
Those costs would be in the billions and would be passed onto consumers in the form of higher bills. In fact, a recent independent investigation conducted by the Public Utilities Commission found that Question 3 would likely increase average residential electric bills for Nevadans for at least a decade.
We have come a long way in the last 50 years, and if Question 3 were to pass it would be a major setback in the progress we have made, coupled with a whole lot of uncertainty. I personally don’t miss the days with the old Witte, or worse yet it not thumping out back. We must not forget the old times when we had small providers that gave consumers in rural areas low voltage in the afternoons and evenings, which meant we went without electricity for blocks of time.
Many of you recall we had energy choice over two decades ago and it failed. In the late 1990s, many states, including Nevada, tried to implement laws like Question 3. California’s attempt in the early 2000s led to skyrocketing rates and consumer complaints, rolling blackouts, the Enron scandal, and more than $40 billion in added costs for consumers and taxpayers.
Of the 24 states that originally attempted a scheme like Question 3, only 14 states still have deregulated electricity systems in place. In those states, average residential electricity rates are 30% higher than Nevada’s, and California’s overall electric rates are nearly double ours.
That’s why it’s been nearly 20 years since any state has taken the risk of implementing a system like that which Question 3 proposes. Given this history, Question 3 is especially risky for Nevada because it would be very difficult to repeal from our Constitution and take years to undo the damage it would cause.
As a Nevada native and public servant, I am deeply concerned that if Question 3 were to pass, the ramifications would be detrimental to the hard-working residents and small businesses in rural communities across the state. We do not need a constitutional mandate, the average ratepayer and majority of consumers will not benefit. Rather than implement a risky scheme that would dismantle our reliable electricity system and cost Nevadans billions, I’m urging my constituents to look into the facts and vote NO on Question 3.