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Nevada Voters Uphold Warren Buffett’s Utility Monopoly

Nevada Voters Uphold Warren Buffett’s Utility Monopoly

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Nevada voters rejected a measure to let customers choose their own electricity provider by 2023, preserving the near monopoly Warren Buffett’s NV Energy Inc. holds in the state.

The measure, backed by casino owner Sheldon Adelson, was defeated Tuesday, according to Associated Press tabulations. It would have forced NV Energy, owned by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., to open its retail business to competition and potentially sell power plants.

The proposition triggered one of the most heavily financed political battles in the U.S. election cycle. The amount raised for it approached nearly $100 million, with a group backed by NV Energy outspending Adelson’s coalition nearly two to one. A second measure, called Question 6, approved a renewable energy goal beginning in 2022 that would require utilities to get half their power from sources like solar and wind energy by 2030.

Supporters of the utility competition measure said it would benefit NV Energy’s roughly 1.3 million electric customers by providing them with options. Environmental organizations, labor unions and others argued the risks of overhauling the system outweighed potential benefits.

NV Energy spokeswoman Jennifer Schuricht said the measure threatened to “dismantle the state’s power system in both urban and rural areas, and halt the progress being made with renewables.”

The push to break NV Energy’s monopoly has been years in the making. It came after casino owners Wynn Resorts Ltd., MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp. paid millions to leave NV Energy and buy power from other providers. Las Vegas Sands, the company run by Adelson, declined to pay a fee to exit and instead backed the energy-choice initiative, known as Question 3 on the November ballot.

Consumers can already choose their own electric providers in about a dozen states, including New York, Texas and Illinois, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Source: Bloomberg L.P.

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Anand Gupta Editor - EQ Int'l Media Network

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