By Angel De Fazio, BSAT (Consumer advocate/watchdog)
On March 7th, the following was read into the record at the Governor's Committee on Energy Choice.
After spending 33 hours and 12 minutes over ten days, monitoring the PUC’s recent investigatory workshops about the energy choice constitutional amendment, a parsing of the language used, leads to one take-away point: the vague language induced Nevada voters to believe they would have both lower rates and energy choice.
One of the initiative’s drafters admitted at the PUC workshops there is no assurance of lower rates. As this admission is part of the official meeting record, the implementation of this initiative prospectively becomes a CONSTITUTIONAL ‘LIE.’
The PUC workshops were to arrive at comprehensive costs required to implement this initiative. The only participant offering this cost information in any meaningful way was the incumbent electric company for 90% of the Nevada’s population. . .NVE. None of the lobbyists, attorneys or out-of-state companies hoping to do business in Nevada offered any useful Nevada cost information despite repeated requests to do so.
The most recent monthly Average Price of Electricity to Customers (December 2017) produced by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration shows that California’s ‘All Sectors’ cost per kilowatt hour is 18.48 cents while Nevada’s is 12.34 cents, or one-third lower.
This troubling comparison shows that connecting with California to operate Nevada’s grid, or otherwise following in California’s energy policy footsteps is a certain path to higher, not lower rates.
Cumulatively, the multiple problems of mass ratepayer education, billing integration, changing the energy provider for 1.3 million Nevada electric ratepayers, placing something in the constitution that clearly does not belong there, the poor performance of other states that have pursued this same path through legislative means alone, creating adequate consumer protections, and so many other glitches that surfaced during the Technical Working Groups’ deliberations suggests that this Committee’s findings should not support implementation of this initiative.
While the initiative’s legal language creates an express right for each and every Nevadan of electric choice and lower costs, there are four groups of Nevadans who will not necessarily have the benefit of these rights:
-Residents of 143 mobile home parks statewide where the landlord chooses and controls the electricity supplier and re-bills the tenants, i.e. master-metered parks
-Roughly 7,000 current NVE customers who pay a surcharge to retain analog meters because of the unresolved health, safety and privacy concerns
-75,000 municipal and rural electric cooperative customers where prospective reduction of the relatively small customer base (if competitors are will to service the area at all) would place these entities in economic peril and likely raise rates for those who remain; and;
-An unknown number of multi-family dwellings, typically older buildings, where there is one electric meter for all the units (a master-meter situation) and re-wiring and re-metering to each dwelling unit would be a costly, new undertaking ultimately borne by the tenants paying rent.
How do these Nevadans waive their constitutional rights, unlike the handful of other US jurisdictions that universally created their versions of electricity competition via legislation?
Will each person be forced to sign a waiver form as a condition of remaining a resident/customer or receiving electric service at all?
That’s one solution, although waiving one’s constitutional right to choose and lower costs without a viable alternative (Consider the Miranda warning in criminal arrests where the option is to say nothing versus incriminating one’s self before consulting with an attorney) poses significant legal problems our court system could be litigating for some time and at considerable new expense to Nevada ratepayers and taxpayers.
Everyone knows this is a revenge ballot question by Switch and Sands, because of them having to pay an exit fee. Since the Governor convened this committee, his Department of Energy should provide all the necessary funding to EDUCATE Nevadans before they vote on this revenge constitutional amendment!