Why I am voting yes on Question 3

Reno Gazette Journal September 30, 2018


By now you are aware of Question 3. You are probably hearing “No on 3” echoing in your ears while you are asleep. With an advertising budget far exceeding any other ballot initiative, Question 3 will likely be the most expensive ballot measure campaign in the history of Nevada.

If you don’t quite understand the details of Question 3, you are not alone. Question 3 proposes to amend the Nevada Constitution and direct the legislature to enact laws facilitating energy deregulation by 2023. To amend the Constitution a ballot measure has to be passed twice. Since Question 3 was passed for the first time in 2016, passage this time around will effectively amend the Constitution.

To understand deregulation, let’s start with the basics. Electricity has three components before it reaches our homes: generation, transmission and distribution. Electricity is generated at a power plant (you have probably seen one just east of Reno in Tracy, as you drive on I-80). Once generated, the electricity is transmitted over long distances using highly interconnected power lines, often referred to as the grid. The grid is federally regulated by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as it is vital to national security. The distribution system moves electricity from the grid to residences and businesses. Distribution systems are regulated by state authorities (Nevada Public Utility Commission).

Currently, in Nevada, the system is a vertically integrated monopoly, meaning NV Energy owns all three components described above and consumers do not have a choice of another provider. If Question 3 passes in November, the transmission and distribution system will essentially stay the same but the consumers can now purchase electricity from different providers (Providers are those who own the power plants and generate the electricity). If you prefer clean energy, you can use a provider who sells that to you through the same power lines we currently have. Instead of the government setting a price, providers will compete for our business based on factors such as price.

Deregulation is nothing new. Industries like airlines and telecommunications were regulated until recently. Deregulation in airlines allows us to choose Southwest over United or Delta. Deregulation broke up AT&T’s monopoly and today allows us to pick Sprint or Verizon or Cricket over AT&T as our cell provider depending on our needs. With every single instance of deregulation, prices have decreased and choices increased. Planes did not start falling out of the sky and phones did not stop working and neither will electricity stop powering our homes because of deregulation.

Voting No on 3 allows politicians and bureaucrats to control power companies. More power to politicians means more campaign contributions to their coffers. Have you wondered why special interest groups are spending millions in ads against this ballot measure?

One final point: Regulations mean more government. More government means more control by politicians. Politicians are in turn controlled by special interest groups and lobbyists. In politics, if you are not at the table, you will be on the menu. If we vote No on 3, those at the table will be the special interest groups, lobbyists and politicians. Those on the menu will be consumers like you and me. That’s why I am voting Yes on 3, just like 72% of Nevada voters did two years ago.