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.