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Ballot Question Six Could Make Or Break Nevada's Clean Energy Future

Ed Suominen
Creative Commons

Question 6, or the Renewable Energy Standards Initiative, would require Nevada to increase the state’s renewable portfolio standards to 50 percent by the year 2030. Our senior political reporter Paul Boger sat down with student reporter Paolo Zialcita to discuss Question 6.

What is a renewable portfolio standard?

Renewable portfolio standards are a pretty complex concept to wrap your head around. I spoke to Riley Snyder with The Nevada Independent. He's been covering complex energy issues in the state and he can probably explain it better than me.

"So an RPS is basically a credit management system similar to a cap-and-trade program where renewable energy production is given a certain credit and the state requires that electric utilities, just NV Energy, obtain a certain amount of credits as a percentage of the energy they generate every year. Basically, it's just a measuring stick for renewable energy production," Snyder said.

What has the history of Nevada’s renewable portfolio standards looked like?

1997 saw the establishment of Nevada’s RPS. The original goal was 6 percent, which was pretty attainable. So easy, in fact, that they more than doubled that goal to 15 percent in 2011.

The last amendment to Nevada’s RPS was in 2009, which raised the requirements to 25 percent by 2025.

Has there been any other effort to increase Nevada’s RPS since 2009?

Yes, in 2017, the state legislature sent a bill to Governor Sandoval, which would have increased the requirements to 40 percent by 2030. Sandoval vetoed it saying its premature due to the fact that they might be deruglating the energy market, referring to the upcoming Question 3.

Who are the major supporters of Q6?

The initiative actually came from Tom Steyer's camp. He's a big Democrat donor based out of California, founded the organization who proposed this initiative. In a similar vein, Congresswoman Dina Titus is one of the major Democratic supporters of the bill.

Across party lines, former Republican state senator Randolph Townsend has also voiced his support of the question. 

Is there any opposition to Question 6?

Yeah, there’s a small group that call themselves the Coalition of Energy Users that is in opposition to Q6. They have a number of high profile Nevadan Republicans attached to this campaign like controller Ron Knecht and state senator Don Gustavson.

While they have a website, a group of members, and a name, they’ve yet to make any contributions or expenditures for ads opposing Q6.

What is Q6's relationship with Q3? They're both about energy, they're both on the ballot this election. Are they related or are they completely separate?

Question 3 would essentially deregulate the energy market, preventing electrical utilities, namely NV Energy, from establishing monopolies in their service areas.

Question 3 has essentially been painted as the antithesis to Question 6 by state Democrats, such as gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak and Congresswoman Dina Titus. They both have expressed their concern that Question 3 would undermine Question 6 and endanger Nevada’s clean energy future They think Q3 will prevent future efforts to implement an RPS of 100 percent.

On the other hand, backers of Q3 argue that Q6 would place unnecessary regulations on upcoming energy providers, which would slow their growth.

If both questions pass, which is a possibility, it’ll be interesting to see how they interact with each other.

Are the supporters of Question 6 concerned that there will be confusion between Q6 and Q3? 

I think there's definitely a concern. I've seen a lot of people go out there and talk about the differences between Q3 and Q6, mainly because they're both energy initiatives. It'll be interesting to see how voters react to this. 

Paolo Zialcita is a former student reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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