Commentary: Ratepayers Take A Giant Step Forward By Passing Question 3

By Gary Aksamit, Chairman of American’s for Electricity Choice

Nevadans should be com­mend­ed for hav­ing the fore­sight to pass Ques­tion 3 pro­mot­ing elec­tric­i­ty retail choice and restruc­tur­ing Nevada’s elec­tric­i­ty sys­tem. But now the real work begins. It’s imper­a­tive that law­mak­ers take the ini­tia­tive in the 2017 ses­sion by pass­ing laws pro­tect­ing Neva­da ratepay­ers and ensur­ing every sin­gle Nevadan’s rights and access to a lev­el play­ing field offer­ing val­ue through retail elec­tric­i­ty choice.

Ratepay­ers need to know that chang­ing elec­tric­i­ty providers is a “paper change” and there will be no inter­rup­tion in ser­vice or reli­a­bil­i­ty in their elec­tric­i­ty ser­vice no mat­ter which pow­er provider they have. Elec­tric­i­ty has become so per­va­sive and vital to our qual­i­ty of life that reli­a­bil­i­ty is vital to any change. Elec­tric­i­ty retail choice pos­es no risk to the lights stay­ing on at their home or work. Large elec­tric­i­ty users left NV Ener­gy with no inter­rup­tion in their ser­vice. Restruc­tur­ing took place in Texas in 2001 and since then cus­tomers have enjoyed low rates, tech­nol­o­gy inno­va­tion, more options that fit their elec­tric­i­ty usage, and an explo­sion of renew­able ener­gy gen­er­a­tion.

Before the vote, we saw sev­er­al large pow­er users leave NV Ener­gy so they could enjoy cheap­er elec­tric­i­ty rates. Leg­is­la­tors writ­ing new laws must make sure that all con­sumers, whether large busi­ness­es, small busi­ness­es, or res­i­den­tial cus­tomers have the free­dom to choose their elec­tric­i­ty provider with­out hav­ing to pay enor­mous fees. Those pow­er users who left NV ener­gy made their own eco­nom­ic deci­sions to ter­mi­nate their con­tracts with NV Ener­gy and pur­chase pow­er from anoth­er provider.

Each Neva­da ratepay­er deserves an exit option from their own ser­vice with suf­fi­cient facts and trans­paren­cy to make an edu­cat­ed deci­sion. Ratepay­ers and law­mak­ers shouldn’t be focused sole­ly on price and how much they can save annu­al­ly from “Neva­da Choice.” Com­pe­ti­tion brings dif­fer­ent lev­els of ser­vice and tech­nol­o­gy prod­ucts, as well. Ratepay­ers must also con­sid­er the added ben­e­fits of com­pe­ti­tion such as com­pa­nies offer­ing free smart meters and “free nights and week­ends” plans, for exam­ple.

It is imper­a­tive that law­mak­ers address changes to Nevada’s elec­tric indus­try from gen­er­a­tion to final deliv­ery to the con­sumer. Restruc­tur­ing must allow com­pet­i­tive pri­vate com­pa­nies to build new elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­a­tion, includ­ing renew­able, with­out any obstruc­tion from the lines and wires providers. The con­sumer should also be allowed to install renew­able gen­er­a­tion with­out the undue bur­dens imposed by NV Ener­gy. Reg­u­la­tions must allow for a seam­less tran­si­tion from new gen­er­a­tion to the exist­ing Neva­da pow­er grid to cre­ate the jobs, eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment, tech­nol­o­gy advance­ments and com­pet­i­tive retail envi­ron­ment that Nevadans should enjoy.

The time to make the tran­si­tion to elec­tric­i­ty retail choice is in 2017 with the Neva­da leg­is­la­ture tak­ing the lead to imple­ment the right laws and reg­u­la­tions. Neva­da can’t wait until 2023 when oth­er sur­round­ing states could already be reap­ing the ben­e­fits of retail choice includ­ing eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment and inno­va­tion. To make Neva­da stand out, law­mak­ers must under­stand the impor­tance and urgency of get­ting this restruc­tur­ing right the first time.

NV Ener­gy stat­ed pub­licly that it was neu­tral on Ques­tion 3 and the vot­ers’ deci­sion to make the shift to retail choice. Law­mak­ers need to hold NV Ener­gy to their word and make sure their inter­ests are heard. How­ev­er, law­mak­ers must make sure the empha­sis is focused on the ratepay­ers’ pro­tec­tions and fair­ness for every­one state-wide.

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