If you’re wondering which of the two energy-related measures on Nevada’s general election ballot has to do with rooftop solar, then you have some catching up to do. The confusion is understandable. For months, pundits talked about the pair of measures that NV Energy had to contend with — one revoking the law that saves it from competition with rooftop solar, and the other breaking up its monopoly of the state’s electricity market. But in August, the Nevada Supreme Court threw one of them out. Here’s a summary of what happened, and what you’ll be deciding on come November 8.
STILL ON THE BALLOT
Question 3: Nevada Legislature to Minimize Regulations on the Energy Market and Eliminate Legal Energy Monopolies, aka the Energy Choice Initiative
Who: Nevadans for Affordable, Clean Energy Choices political action committee, supported by MGM Resorts, the Sands, Switch and Tesla. Oh, and U.S. Senator Harry Reid.
What: This measure aims to require the state Legislature to pass a law providing an open, competitive energy market by July 1, 2023. Reid believes this would stimulate continued investment in renewable energy, one of his pet causes.
When: This is a proposed constitutional amendment, which means it has to be approved in two even-numbered election years (2016 and 2018) in order to pass.
Why: Supporters want to break up NV Energy’s near-complete control of the state electricity market (there are several rural co-ops, as well), which they describe as a regulated, state-imposed monopoly. They believe declining energy prices and distributed generation have rendered this model obsolete. Opponents argue that it would cause an Enron-like meltdown, entailing massive layoffs at NV Energy.
“Now, deregulation of an electricity market is a much more complicated issue than it might seem,” political commentator Jon Ralston said on KNPR’s State of Nevada recently. “There are ways that deregulation could potentially work, but it is fraught with difficulty, and there is no way that NV Energy is going to sit on its hands and not be active in this.”
OFF THE BALLOT
Question 5 – Nevada Solar Rate Restoration Veto Referendum –
Who: No Solar Tax political action committee, backed by the Bring Back Solar Alliance
What: This measure sought to repeal parts of a law passed in 2015 that are related to net metering, specifically the parts about rooftop solar customers paying different fees from other customers.
When: By July, backers of the measure had 115,000 signatures, twice the amount needed to get it on the ballot. The Secretary of State certified it on July 12, but on August 4, the state’s highest court removed it, citing language in the petition that it called “inaccurate,” “misleading” and “argumentative.”
Why: Judges apparently agreed with opponents’ claims that the measure was actually an initiative (rather than a referendum), because it sought to delete parts of a bill and amend it, rather than to reject in its entirety, which is what a referendum does.
Where: The measure could have gone back on the ballot as an initiative that, if approved by voters, would have gone before the Legislature for an up-or-down vote. Instead, the alliance is taking a shotgun approach, working on several fronts — with individual legislators, the governor’s energy industry task force and the Public Utilities Commission — to get the policy changed.
“NV Energy got 1,268 new applications for solar in December 2015. Last month it was 14,” says Chandler Sherman, deputy chairman of Bring Back Solar. “The new rules clearly aren’t working for consumers in the state, and we’re looking forward to working with all these groups to bring the industry back.”