Group proposes ballot measure to break NV Energy’s monopoly

Exterior view of the NV Energy building Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, in Las Vegas.

A group filed a ballot measure today that would create a competitive electricity market in Nevada to effectively end NV Energy’s monopoly through a constitutional amendment.

The amendment would require the Legislature to create an open market for purchasing electricity and prohibit monopolies, according to language released by the Secretary of State’s Office. Under the current structure, NV Energy operates as a regulated monopoly.

The measure is being supported by a newly formed political action committee, Nevadans for Affordable, Clean Energy Choices. Its backers have not yet identified themselves.

“We aim to open Nevada’s energy markets so consumers have the freedom to choose new, more affordable energy and cleaner options for a healthier environment,” Matt Griffin, a lawyer for the Energy Choice Initiative, said in a statement.

NV Energy CEO Paul Caudill said in a statement that he's not surprised by the petition filing "in light of the dramatic changes in the western energy markets, including lower natural gas and power prices, and the availability of energy."

"Given the breadth of our operating experience, we are well-positioned to provide leadership and support to customers and stakeholders as we work through this complex issue and how it may affect jobs and investments in critical power and energy infrastructure," he said.

The measure comes at a time when some gaming companies have requested to leave NV Energy and purchase electricity on the open market. Three gaming companies — Las Vegas Sands Corp., MGM Resorts International and Wynn Las Vegas LLC — have filed applications with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, NV Energy’s regulator, seeking permission to leave the utility. To leave, the commission has said the companies would have to pay a collective $126.6 million in exit fees and fees based on future supply and demand costs.

Some suspect Sands, which has labeled the exit fees exorbitant and unjustified in commission filings, is part of the group organizing the measure. However, Ron Reese, a spokesman from Sands, declined to comment on the initiative.

“The company continues to explore its options,” he said.

Representatives from Wynn and MGM Resorts said their companies were not involved with the initiative. Representatives from MGM Resorts did not immediately respond to requests for comments. Wynn recently filed a lawsuit against the commission that challenges how the three-member panel calculated the exit fees.

Initiative lawyer Griffin described the backers of the measure as “a broad coalition of Nevadans from all walks who want lower costs and more choices in energy sources, including renewable energy that will spur innovations and create thousands of good new jobs here in Nevada.”

The proposal would allow businesses to choose their electricity providers or produce their own electricity in addition to drawing from other sources. According to the proposed language, the measure would not deregulate transmission or distribution of electricity.

The proposed Energy Choice Initiative can be challenged in court before it is certified to appear on the November ballot. It also must receive more than 55,000 signatures.


Sun reporter Cy Ryan contributed to this report.