Nevada voters passed a ballot initiative in the November 2018 midterm elections mandating at least 50 percent of the electricity provided by utilities in the state come from renewable sources by 2030.
Nevadans for a Clean Energy Future, a climate interest group funded by California billionaire and progressive activist Tom Steyer, sponsored the initiative. In contrast to Nevada, voters in Arizona on that same Election Day overwhelmingly rejected a similar measure pushed by Steyer, Proposition 127, which would have required Arizona’s electric utilities get 50 percent of their energy from renewables by 2030. The state’s current renewable energy mandate requires 25 percent of the electricity provided by utilities in the state come from renewable sources by 2025 (see story on page 8).
Despite passing with more than 59 percent of the vote, Question 6 will not necessarily become law. Nevada requires any constitutional amendment to pass in two consecutive elections to be ratified. This means voters must approve the renewable mandate amendment again in the 2020 election for it to take effect.
Unfriendly to Consumers
The high cost of living, particularly energy costs, is a big reason many people are moving out of Steyer’s home state of California to less expensive locales such as Nevada, says Eric Eisenhammer, founder of the Coalition of Energy Users and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.
“High energy costs are one of the reasons California has become so unaffordable and so many people have left,” Eisenhammer said. “In California, the poor and the working poor have been left behind.
“The Heritage Foundation’s Stephen Moore estimated an average Nevada family would see their utility bills alone rise by about $1,000 annually if Question 6 becomes law,” said Eisenhammer. “However, the costs could actually be much more because higher energy costs mean a higher cost of doing business across the economy and those costs would get passed down to consumers.”
Following the California model will damage Nevada’s economy badly, says Eisenhammer.
“In California, high energy costs have decimated the state’s industrial base.” Eisenhammer said. “Hundreds of thousands of good jobs were lost.
“Nevada has worked hard to attract more good jobs, and the mandate would be a big step backward,” said Eisenhammer.
‘Counterproductive for the Environment’
Eisenhammer says wind and solar power are not as environmentally friendly as their proponents claim.
“If Nevadans approve the renewable energy mandate again in 2020, the consequences for the environment would likely be counterproductive,” Eisenhammer said. “Huge swaths of habitat could be covered with solar panels and windmills due to this mandate, blighting open space and jeopardizing Nevada’s endangered eagle population, which has just recently begun to recover.”
Mandates Versus Markets
One of the problems with Nevada’s renewable mandate is it excludes clean, reliable, traditional sources of electricity, says Michael Schaus, communications director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute.
“It’s geared to greatly favor wind and solar at the expense of other forms of clean energy,” said Schaus. “The previous iteration of Nevada’s [renewable mandate], for example, didn’t even count hydropower, one of the cleanest forms of renewable energy sources, toward the mandate.
“The fact ‘renewables’ are going to be mandated is a clear indication market preferences, meaning consumers acting on their own volition, wouldn’t naturally gravitate toward these forms of energy,” Schaus said. “By mandating renewable energy, the market incentive for energy providers to economize and find innovative ways to lower prices is suddenly removed.”
Markets are better suited than government mandates to deliver energy that satisfies consumers’ preferences for lower prices and cleaner energy, Schaus says.
“The truth is most American consumers like the idea of clean energy,” said Schaus. “The only thing holding them back is the price and dependability of such energy. In a market system, renewable sectors of the energy industry would be innovating and improving their products to meet those challenges, with the result being not only cleaner but also cheaper energy sources for consumers.
“Renewable energy mandates, by contrast, force consumers to use alternative ‘renewable’ sources of energy, regardless of whether or not such alternatives are ready to meet consumers’ expectations,” Schaus said.
Linnea Lueken ([email protected]) writes from Laramie, Wyoming.
Tim Benson, “Research & Commentary: Renewable Power Mandate Would Be Too Costly for Nevada,” The Heartland Institute, October 30, 2018: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/research–commentary-renewable-power-mandate-would-be-too-costly-for-nevada