Warren Buffett And Sheldon Adelson Pitted Against Each Other In Utility Battle

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Warren Buffett are on opposing sides in a campaign that will decide the fate of Nevada’s electricity market.

In addition to the candidates running for office, Nevada voters will have another big decision on their hands when they go to the ballot box this November — whether to open their state’s electricity market up to competition. More specifically, they will decide if the state constitution should be amended to roll back legal monopolies and regulations, giving choice to Nevada electricity customers. Such a vote would be to the detriment of NV Energy, which currently enjoys a monopoly on the state’s generation and distribution of electricity. If passed, the state legislature will be required to install a competitive retail market by 2023.

The Energy Choice Initiative, better known as Question 3, is backed by Las Vegas Sands, MGM and Switch. These companies — which are major consumers of electricity with plenty of money to spend — have applied to exit NV Energy’s monopoly and obtain power in the open market. The Las Vegas Sands Corporation is owned by business magnate Sheldon Adelson. Switch and Adelson’s Sands Corp. have dropped millions to encourage Nevadans to vote “yes” on Question 3.

Adelson’s campaign is fighting against a well-funded NO campaign led by NV Energy, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway — an international conglomerate run by Warren Buffett. The Buffett-owned utility has pledged $30 million to defeat the YES campaign. (RELATED: Tariffs At Work: US Solar Manufacturing Doubled Since 2017)

Question 3 will actually be decided by Nevadans for a second time. State law requires amendments to the Nevada constitution to be voted on in two separate elections. Voters chose to amend the state constitution by 72 percent of the vote in the first round in 2016. However, NV Energy chose to sit on the sidelines during that election. With a lot on the line this year, NV Energy is going all in to defeat the measure.

In an effort to up the ante, NV Energy announced a sweeping renewables energy intuitive. On Thursday, CEO Paul Caudill announced the utility will add several massive solar projects and double Nevada’s renewable energy use over the next five years. However, there is one major caveat: NV Energy would only move forward with the renewables push if Nevada votes “no” in November.

Correction: Wynn Las Vegas was incorrectly placed on the list of Question 3 supporters. Their name has been taken down and this DCNF article has been edited to reflect those changes. 

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