Carson City should let voters have final say on energy plan

By Eric Eisenhammer

A plan has been in the works that would raise Nevadans’ electricity bills, increase prices for consumer goods and set back efforts to diversify the economy. Nevada voters were supposed to have a final say in whether to adopt the plan in November, 2020, but Carson City politicians this year decided to preempt the voters by giving the green light early.

The plan, which raises Nevada’s renewable energy mandate to 50 percent by 2030, was bankrolled by San Francisco hedge fund billionaire and political activist Tom Steyer. Steyer’s committee has spent over $10 million on it last year, according to Ballotpedia.
However, many Nevadans have legitimate concerns over a policy that has already been adopted in California and caused widespread harm to consumers and to the state’s industrial base — California’s residential energy rates are 57 percent higher than Nevada’s and industrial rates are more than double, according to statistics from the US Energy Information Administration. The result has been 607,500 manufacturing jobs lost from 2001 to 2011, based on California EDD, Labor Market Information Department data.

Given the potential for widespread economic harm to Nevada, many top business and policy leaders have expressed concern. Former Nevada State Controller and noted fiscal watchdog Ron Knecht, stated:

As Nevada's top fiscal watchdog, I oppose Question 6. This costly mandate hampers our economic recovery. Since lost jobs also mean lost tax revenue, Question 6 will increase Nevada budget deficits and foster more attempts by Carson City to raise taxes. In any event, this stuff doesn't belong in our constitution, which should be limited to important basic matters.

The business community also has joined in recognizing the harm the mandate could cause to the state’s efforts to create more good jobs. Randi Thompson of National Federation of Independent Business — Nevada stated:

The price of electricity is a big issue for small business. That is why we did a statewide poll of our members. Close to 70% of the small business owners who responded oppose Question 6, as they fear it will increase electric rates. Nevada continues to expand its use of renewable energy in a way that is good for the environment and good for the ratepayers.

While the policy did appear before Nevada voters last year, sending Constitutional changes to voters for a second final vote is a long established Nevada policy that protects against an unwieldy State Constitution like seen in California, one of the longest in the world and full of trivial laws that most people would agree do not belong in a Constitution, such as a provision mandating the size of a chicken coop.

However, despite many other matters competing for Nevadans attention, such as a top contested US Senate race and another hotly debated energy measure coming to its final vote, the runup to Election Day showed mounting concerns on Tom Steyer’s plan. In fact, opposition to the measure more than doubled from an April 2018 Mellman Group poll to Election Day.
There’s a strong possibility given a more thorough vetting, the Steyer energy plan would go down to defeat.
The identical measure was rejected overwhelmingly in Arizona just last year. Meanwhile, similar policies are being rolled back all over the map amid concerns over costs and job losses, including last year in Ontario, Canada ; North Carolina and Kansas . Meanwhile in California, another Steyer energy initiative has faced bipartisan calls for additional oversight after analysts found the program failed to deliver its promised benefits.

Given the serious potential for economic harm, Nevada political leaders should do the right thing and let voters have the final say.

Eric Eisenhammer is Founder of the Coalition of Energy Users, a nonprofit organization for affordable energy and quality jobs