Robert Fulghum is probably best known for his book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten.” More than 30 years since its first publication, I think that message still resonates with people.
We all recognize that there are some fundamental principles that serve us well regardless of changing circumstances. Fulghum’s list included: “Play fair. Share everything. Wash your hands before you eat. Clean up your own mess.”
If I were to write a similar book from the rural electric cooperative perspective, my list of fundamental principles would begin with, “Local control.”
I suspect that local control resonates with you as well. In our own lives, our families, our communities and even our state, we want to be able to make decisions in our own best interest. Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) honors that principle with annual elections for members of the Board of Directors. WREC has used the resonating message of local control many times to protect your interests in the Legislature and even in Congress.
My list of fundamental principles would also include: “Ask members what they want.”
In light of these principles, I find Question 3, also known as the Energy Choice Initiative (ECI) to be fundamentally flawed.
First and foremost, the proponents of ECI never asked you, our members, if you wanted to be included. The amendment to the Nevada Constitution that they proposed doesn’t recognize that WREC exists because members chose to create a cooperative. Competition often leads to lower prices, but the most effective way to bring safe, reliable and affordable electricity to rural Nevada is through an electric cooperative.
“Restructuring” or “deregulating” the electric utility industry isn’t a new concept. Multiple states have enacted similar laws. Even Nevada started down that road in the early 1990s. However, every other state recognized the importance of local control. Their laws allowed individual cooperatives to “opt in” if retail competition was good for their members. Despite “choice” being part of the title, the Energy Choice Initiative eliminates that choice for you.
Second, no state has ever attempted to implement restructuring through a constitutional amendment. I understand why the proponents of ECI chose to bypass the legislative process. It’s slow, difficult and rarely can you get everything you want. However, as Winston Churchill so wisely observed, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried from time to time.”
The legislative process is slow because there are so many consequences to be considered. It’s difficult because there are competing interests. It’s rare to get everything you want because it probably comes at the expense of someone else. Yet that deliberative process usually yields a compromise we can accept.
The backers of ECI made another fundamental error by ignoring the fact that four of the 11 utilities that serve Nevada’s consumers are based in neighboring states. Additionally, three utilities based in Nevada serve into other states.
Lastly, ECI has a fundamentally flawed time frame. All of the laws necessary to preserve reliability, protect consumers, create wholesale and retail markets, recruit providers, enable consumers to comparison shop and deploy a standardized billing system must be written by the Legislature by 2023.
There are too many fundamental flaws for the Energy Choice Initiative to become part of Nevada’s Constitution.
Clay R. Fitch,
Chief Executive Officer