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Environmental groups oppose Nev. ballot bid to deregulate power sector

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Essential Energy Insights - February 2021

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Environmental groups oppose Nev. ballot bid to deregulate power sector

Citing threats to Nevada's clean energy progress, environmental groups have joined NV Energy Inc. in opposing a ballot initiative that would break up the Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary's monopoly over retail electricity in the state.

Nearly three quarters of Nevada voters already approved the initiative, known as Question 3, in 2016. As a proposed constitutional amendment, however, it must win a second vote in November. Nevadans should take the opportunity to think twice about the proposal, advocacy groups the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project and Western Resource Advocates cautioned.

"Question 3 has been sold to voters as a way to get more renewable energy online in Nevada, but it will actually make it more difficult," Dylan Sullivan, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a July 26 news release. "There will be years of market uncertainty as the legislature figures out how to implement complex restructuring, and even after that, electricity retailers have shown a reluctance to sign the long-term contracts it takes to get new renewables built."

If approved, state lawmakers would have until 2023 to create a new, deregulated electricity market. But that would undermine NV Energy's commitment to double its current level of renewable energy generation by 2023, the groups said, while putting utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs and the state's "recovering rooftop solar industry" at risk.

The comments from environmental groups largely echoed those of the utility. While NV Energy recently contracted for more than 1,000 MW of solar, approval of the ballot initiative would throw such commitments "into uncertainty," an official at its parent company said in an interview in April.