Two strange bedfellows, the casino industry and the solar power industry, have teamed up to become the driving force behind Question 3 on tomorrow’s Nevada ballot – the Nevada Energy Choice Amendment. One might expect two industry associations to craft a ballot initiative that is nothing more than government favoritism, but the casino and solar industries deserve praise for crafting a ballot initiative that opens up consumer choice for all Nevada households and businesses.
The casinos are rightfully outraged that the Nevada Public Utilities Commission is making them pay outrageous exit fees to purchase electricity from any company other than the NV Energy monopoly. The casinos’ willingness to pay over $100 million in exit fees is empirical evidence that they are being overcharged for electricity. The casinos are willing to pay over $100 million because they know they will save even more than that by purchasing from other providers. Still, casinos paying hundreds of millions of dollars in excess electricity charges during recent years and then paying an additional $100 million to “compensate” NV Energy upon their departure is a difficult pill to swallow while trying to make ends meet.
The solar power industry feels shackled by state law preventing people from purchasing excess power directly from their neighbors’ rooftop solar panels. Solar power is heavily subsidized, and it can be difficult for free marketers to support anything proposed by an industry built on political cronyism, but the industry has a legitimate complaint when state law limits solar power sales to a single designated customer.
In Florida, the solar power industry attempted to solve a similar problem by drawing up a constitutional amendment requiring state policymakers to promote solar power and giving solar power alone the right to sell power outside the monopoly utility system. That is merely fighting one crony system with another crony system.
In Nevada, however, the solar power industry and the casino industry did right by all Nevadans. Instead of lobbying the legislature or crafting a ballot initiative that gives the casino industry alone the right to leave NV Energy, and instead of giving the solar power industry alone the right to sell power outside NV Energy, the initiative gives all Nevadans the right to buy and sell power from whomever they please.
Whether one agrees with consumer choice or not, the solar power and casino industries deserve credit for offering a proposed solution for all Nevadans rather than just themselves.