On Election Day 2018 Nevadans voted to support renewable energy standards proposed in Question 6, but struck down deregulation of Nevada’s energy market proposed in Question 3. Reporters Tanner Barrett and Kacee Johnson explore what the results mean for the future of Nevada energy policy.
Nevada’s leading electric utility NV Energy, which generates, transmits and distributes electric service in northern and southern Nevada, spent $63 million fighting the Energy Choice Initiative according to documents filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.The utility remained neutral on Question 6 which would mandate that Nevada receive 50% of its energy from renewable resources by 2030. During the 2018 campaign, NV Energy announced its own plans for renewable resources if Question 3 was defeated. Outside NV Energy’s Reno offices on S. Virginia Street and Neil Road. Photo by Tanner Barrett.
What do the Results Mean?
When the votes were counted on election night, voters reversed their 2016 support for Question 3 and welcomed renewable energy standards proposed in Question 6. Question 3 was the only statewide ballot question that did not gain the public’s approval with 67 percent voting “No;” and on the flip side, Question 6 was approved with 59 percent “Yes.”
With Question 3 officially defeated, NV Energy will maintain its monopoly status and remain as the state’s leading electricity provider.
In May 2018, NV Energy announced its own “Integrated Resource Plan” that the utility claims could double renewable energy sources by 2023. The utility said they would only go through with the plan if Question 3 didn’t pass. The plan includes increases to solar projects with projected completion dates in 2021.
“We take the responsibility of serving Nevada’s electric needs personally and we remain focused on providing customers with reliable electric service and delivering on our promise to double renewable energy by 2023 while keeping rates low,” NV Energy told #NevadaVote.
Dozens of negative ads about Question 3 were sent to voters throughout the campaign citing higher electric bills if the question was passed. The investment payed off on election day. Photo by Tanner Barrett.
Turning Away from Fossil Fuels?
According to the 2017 Nevada Status of Energy Report, Nevada still relies heavily on fossil fuels to generate electricity for its electronics, household appliances, heat, and transportation. More than two thirds of Nevada’s electricity is generated by natural gas. Renewable resources such as solar, geothermal, and wind power make up less than one fifth of resources the state uses to generate electricity.
The renewable energy standards proposed in Question 6 seek for the state to meet 50 percent renewables by 2030. That is a significantly slower rate than NV Energy’s own proposed plan to double standards, but both shoot higher than current standards set at 25 percent renewable resources by 2025. By passing in 2018, Question 6 will automatically appear on the 2020 ballot for a final public vote.
During the campaign, there were several environmental groups on campus appealing to students who view protecting the planet as a crucial political issue going forward.
“Increasing to 50 percent renewables (by 2030) is something we ultimately need to strive for,” Emma Davis, a student at the University of Nevada, Reno studying geography and renewable energy said. “Ultimately, if we want to work to address climate change, we need to put a stop to fossil fuel emissions. I don’t think that there is one simple solution to fixing climate change. I believe that there is a whole chain of things that we need to fix.”
What to expect in the 2019 Legislative Session (and beyond?)
In the 2017 Legislative Session, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed a renewable portfolio standard bill citing the uncertainty Question 3 had created for the energy market, but now with unified Democratic control of the state legislature and governor’s office for the first time since 1992, representatives in the 2019 Legislative Session exploring further increases to renewable energy standards has become more of a possibility.
“You will certainly see a conversation about raising the renewable portfolio standard, potentially as high as 100 percent renewable by 2050 to match what California did. But at a minimum, legislation to be at 50 percent renewable by 2030,” Bradley Mayer, a Government Affairs Firm partner for Yes on Question 3 said. “You will also see some community solar legislation.”
Meyer, who is registered with the state legislature as a paid lobbyist, said the defeat of Question 3 was not the end for energy choice in Nevada.
“We haven’t taken any option off the table,” Meyer said. “Until energy policy has been fixed in Nevada from a centuries old system to a modern, innovative system that promotes economic development, affordable renewable energy option and smart energy systems, I think you’ll see disputes over energy to continue.”
According to industry analysts and lobbyists, the defeat of Question 3, the approval of Question 6, and a so-called Democratic trifecta in the state legislature and executive office all point toward a future for Nevada energy policy on its way to more clean energy.
Reporting by Tanner Barrett and Kacee Johnson