Midterm Elections Bring Mixed Electric Choice & Renewable Mandate Results in the West

By November 16, 2018 News

The recent midterm elections brought varied results in some Western states concerning retail electric choice. In Nevada, voters defeated the Energy Choice Initiative with 67% of the vote that, had it passed, would have amended the Nevada Constitution to declare Nevada’s electricity markets to be open and competitive. Those opposed to this Electric Choice measure contended that deregulation would increase the cost of electricity for its consumers. This was the second vote on this issue. In the first vote in 2016, the measure passed by a healthy margin, setting up the second vote. Significant money was spent by entities seeking to defeat the initiative, including NV Energy, the regulated utility that serves most of Nevada.

Alternately, in Arizona, the Arizona Corporation Commission, the organization which regulates the state’s public utilities, voted unanimously to hold a workshop to discuss retail electric competition, possibly allowing some smaller customers to procure competitive supply as is already in place for their larger customers through their AG-X program. The AG-X program was initiated several years ago as a pilot for broader retail competition, though broader competition did not move forward at that time. In addition, the recent midterm race for two open seats on the Commission is still too close to call, with Democrat Sandra Kennedy and Republican Justin Olson (incumbent) maintaining their leads. Kennedy supports the generation of more power from renewable energy sources. Olson is in favor of reviewing grid modernization, specifically where it concerns retail electric choice.

Voters in both Nevada and Arizona decided on measures to increase their states’ renewable energy mandate. In Nevada, a proposal to increase the renewable energy mandate to 50% of all power generated by 2030 passed with 60% of voters in favor. In Arizona, a similar proposal for a 50% renewable mandate by 2030 was defeated by a more than 2-1 margin. In both cases, significant funds were invested by parties on opposing sides of the debate.