Distributed Energy Resources

Ariz., Nev. voters go in different directions on RPS increases

There were several energy-related state proposals considered by voters on Nov. 6 including proposals to hike the renewable portfolio standards of Arizona and Nevada.

In Arizona, voters turned aside a proposal to increase the state’s RPS, but voters in neighboring Nevada signed off on a similar plan to raise the state’s RPS.

Arizona voters rejected Proposition 127, which would have increased the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 50% by 2030, from 15% by 2025. The proposition garnered only 30% of the vote.

In Nevada, however, a similar ballot initiative to increase the state’s RPS to 50% by 2030 passed with 59% of voters favoring Question 6 on the ballot. Under Nevada law changes to the state’s constitution must be approved in two general elections before becoming law, so Question 6 will have to pass another ballot initiative in 2020.

A Nevada retail choice ballot initiative passed in the previous election with 70% of the vote, but failed in this year’s election. Question 3, which would have established retail choice for electric consumers failed, garnering only 30% of the vote.

Earlier this year, NV Energy announced it had contracted for more than 1,000 megawatts of new renewable energy resources to be built in Nevada, noting that it would file a resource plan with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada.

NV Energy’s Chief Executive Officer Paul Caudill said that the renewable energy expansion was the largest such investment in the state’s history, but also said that NV Energy had the option to not proceed with the proposed plan in the event Question 3 passed, in order to avoid increasing the liabilities and risks to NV Energy customers.

Washington State carbon tax falls short

Meanwhile, in Washington State an initiative to create what would have been the nation’s first state tax on carbon dioxide emissions appears to have failed.

The Carbon Emissions Fee and Revenue Allocation Initiative, or Initiative 1631, would impose a $15 per metric ton fee on CO2 emissions that would increase $2 a year until the state’s 2035 emissions target are met.

All the votes were still not counted and proponents had not conceded defeat at press time, but with the initiative trailing 56% to 44%, the Seattle Times and other local media outlets have reported that 1631 has failed.

Washington’s carbon tax would have taken a heavy toll on oil interests in the state because transportation emissions are responsible for 43% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In November 2016, Washington State voters also rejected a carbon tax. Known as Initiative 732, the carbon tax lost 58 percent to 41 percent that year. The measure called for a $15 per ton tax on carbon for the first year, $25 per ton for the second year, and up to $100 per ton thereafter under an inflation-based index.

Stakeholders “pivoting to the people”

There is an important contextual point to be made regarding the power sector issues in the mid-term election, Timothy Fox, research analyst and vice president at ClearView Energy Partners, said.

“Stakeholders in several energy subsectors have been ‘pivoting to the people’ by seeking to have energy decisions influenced – if not decided – in the court of public opinion." 

Fox said that results of the roster of ballot initiatives "suggest that advocates pursuing this strategy may need to moderate their expectations of success.” 

He said that the results "could also suggest that successful ballots must reflect policy ideologies already alive in the state citizenry.”