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Las Vegas Sands biggest backer of initiative to open energy market to competition

CARSON CITY — Las Vegas Sands Corp. is the primary backer of a proposed constitutional amendment to open Nevada’s electricity markets to competition.

The casino operator contributed $500,000 to the political action committee Nevadans for Affordable, Clean Energy Choices, a report filed with the secretary of state’s office shows. MGM Resorts International gave $10,000.

The proposed constitutional amendment seeks to abolish NV Energy’s monopoly as Nevada’s electricity utility and allow consumers to choose how they get their power by 2023. The initiative states that any business, resident or entity “has the right to choose the provider of its electric utility service,” whether that be from a competitive retail electricity market or by producing electricity for themselves or with others.

Sands and MGM Resorts filed applications with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to exit as customers of NV Energy. MGM followed through with a filing last week. Wynn Resorts also is moving forward with plans to exit as an NV Energy customer.

Sands did not pursue its exit application. The company operates The Venetian, Palazzo and the Sands Expo & Convention Center.

In a statement, the Las Vegas Sands said: “While Las Vegas Sands did not exercise its option to exit NV Energy, the company maintains a strong desire to purchase and use the cleanest and most cost efficient energy available on the open market.

“Big business should not be the only ones participating in a discussion about energy choice though. It’s important our employees and all Nevada ratepayers have a voice in this debate and we will absolutely support efforts to help those voices be heard,” the statement said.

The two remaining exit applications require further review by the PUC before they could take effect. Wynn and MGM want to leave by Oct. 1 to obtain their own electricity on the wholesale market.

The initiative petition to amend the Nevada Constitution was filed in February. The group must collect about 55,000 signatures by June 21 to qualify for the November ballot. Because the energy choice initiative proposes a constitutional amendment, it would have to be approved by voters twice, in 2016 and 2018, before it could take effect.

Paul Caudill, president and CEO of NV Energy, said he wasn’t surprised by the effort, given rapidly changing energy markets. He had no specific comment on the initiative itself, but he added the company is open to discussions with policymakers and stakeholders going forward.

The exit fees approved by the PUC to leave NV Energy, which does business in Southern Nevada as Nevada Power, total $86.9 million for MGM Resorts, $15.7 million for Wynn and $23.9 million for Sands, plus recurring fees and charges to recover certain ongoing costs that cannot currently be quantified.

The fees were imposed by the PUC to ensure remaining customers of NV Energy are not harmed by a company’s departure.

The initiative is the latest energy salvo in Nevada, where the rooftop-solar industry has been battling with the PUC and NV Energy over new net metering rules, regulations and reimbursements.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Find @seanw801 on Twitter.

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