Watching Texas disaster, remembering 2018′s Question 3

Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 6:42 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Viewed from the warmth of our living rooms the struggles unfolding in Texas this past week were disturbing, the failure of systems we all depend upon--electrical power, clean water.

As we watched we might have remembered a choice we faced in 2018.

Question three proposed restructuring our power industry, moving away from the monopoly of NV Energy. There were claims on both sides which when we examined--we determined to be misleading, even false.

The result was considerable confusion--which is why some voters read an extensive report prepared by the Guinn Center for Policy Priorities and attended gatherings like this town hall in Carson City to hear its author--Meredith Levine.

The first thing they learned was that is issues raised by Question Three were complicated. They still are, as is today’s question: did we make the right decision two years ago when we rejected it.

One thing is clear Levine tells us today, whether or not Question Three passed we’d be in better shape than Texas was this week. The Lone Star State decided long ago to go it alone. They have their own power grid, unconnected with either of those that link others in the lower 48.

“They are dealing with an extreme situation in which it’s very difficult if not impossible to import energy from other states. We would not have experienced that in Nevada. but there are other things that might have revealed themselves had Question 3 been approved in the state.”

Those potential impacts? Higher rates.

The degree of risk would have depended on how the legislature structured things. Texas chose a market-based model and some residents there may now see huge prices on the power they are getting.

“I read $9,000 per kilowatt-hour in Houston,” said Levine, “and that is just so extreme it’s hard to wrap your head around.”

And in an extreme regional weather event, say one involving neighboring states like Idaho and Utah, she says we might have found ourselves buying power from other states under the same kind of stress.

“That would mean spot market, same-day purchase from warmer other states who would have the ability to set that price wherever they wanted.”

NVEnergy funded most of the Vote No campaign on Question Three. We asked for their input and received this statement:

NV Energy engages in an extensive planning process to prepare for the cold weather in northern Nevada. We are able to utilize our diverse array of owned generating stations across the state and access other fuel and energy supply resources to help ensure we are able to provide reliable power during extreme temperatures. In addition to the resources we have within our system, we are interconnected to multiple other utilities through our transmission system that enable us to draw upon resources outside of our service territory, if required. Texas is very limited in its ability to draw from resources outside their state. NV Energy will further strengthen this ability through additional proposed transmission projects currently under review with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada.

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