Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said he is in favor of ballot Measure 3 in the Nevada ballot this November, but not the way it is written.
While he supports the idea of having free and open competition, he does not agree with having it voted in as an amendment to the state constitution.
On the ballot, the measure will read: “Shall Article 1 of the Nevada Constitution be amended to require the Legislature to provide by law for the establishment of an open, competitive retail electric market that prohibits the granting of monopolies and exclusive franchises for the generation of electricity?”
Heller was in Caliente on Sept. 23, attending a Dutch Oven dinner as a kick-off to the Community Cares Days, in conjunction with the shoe distribution program for the schools in Lincoln County, an event sponsored annually by Bob and Sandy Ellis of Las Vegas.
He said he likes the idea of electric utilities being able to seek “higher quality, more competition, and less cost. Measure 3 does meet that criteria, but the reservation I have is I do not want to put this in our constitution. If it would be put there, it would be terribly hard to change it. You would have to go through a massive effort of two cycles [six to eight years] if a problem might be there.”
He said, “Each community has to make the decision from themselves on Measure 3, but as I look at the bigger picture, I do like the idea of better quality, more competition at less cost,”
In the meantime, Lincoln County Power District General Manager Dave Luttrell, a strong opponent of Measure 3, has said that, as written, the measure “has nothing good in it for rural Nevada.”
In a telephone interview with the Record, Luttrell remarked that, “You should not be doing energy policy in a constitutional amendment. That is for freedom of speech and matters related to human rights and dignity, not for energy policy.”
On the idea of supporting more competition and less cost, Luttrell said, “While it may seem to be a good idea, especially for rural areas, the problem, in utility terms, is the enormous amount of investment that would have to occur in order to build a power plant or a transmission line to bring power in.
Companies are not going to want to make the investments to spend the billions of dollars for a large-scale plant if they don’t believe they are going to be able sell that power and get a substantial return on it. What has been seen in some of the states that have gone to deregulated power is the small- scale utility providers, which do work for a while, until the overall base-load needs grow to a point they are not able to have the power needed to meet customer demand. Texas, in particular, found that out.”
He noted that, “Yes, competition when talking about most items is a good idea, but as it relates to building power plants and transmission lines across the state of Nevada, it may not be the best model. You have to regulate this market to get the big generation plants.”
Luttrell believes the Nevada utility market is different than other places. “We can certainly appreciate competition. However, this is a market situation where that does not fit very well. You cannot always say that competition is good in all circumstances, and this is a situation where I don’t think it is.”