Nevada Net Metering: how to sell electricity back to the grid
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Nevada contains some of the sunniest spots on planet earth, so installing solar panels here seems like a no-brainer. Adding rooftop solar to a home in Nevada can greatly offset your energy usage, saving you money and saving the planet at the same time.
Solar panels save you money by producing electricity to run your home that you would have otherwise purchased from the utility company. When your solar panels are making more power than your home needs, the excess gets set to the grid (unless you install a home solar battery).
When your solar panels aren’t making enough power, like at night, you draw energy from the grid.
Your utility company is able to record the total amount of energy you sent and received during a month. Under net metering, each kilowatt-hour (kWh) you send offsets one kWh of usage, and any extra kWh left over at the end of the month earn you credit toward your next bill. Whether you can get net metering and earn that credit depends on who your utility company is.
If you live in Nevada, chances are you’re one of the millions of people served by NV Energy. It’s by far the largest electric utility in the state, and covers the most populous areas like Las Vegas, Reno, and Carson City. NV Energy is required by a 2017 law called Assembly Bill 405 to offer net metering to all its customers.
If you are not a customer of NV Energy, your utility is not required to offer net metering. We cover these companies after the section on NV Energy below.
Here’s what you need to know:
During the day, solar panels generate electricity that is first used to power the home, with any extra being sent to the grid. The customer then uses energy from the grid at night. Net metering is when the power company records energy it receives from a solar owner and “nets” it against the electricity they used throughout the month.
Under NV Energy net metering, you don’t exactly “sell” the extra electricity back to the grid; you trade it for credit toward your bill. If a customer uses more energy from the grid than they send during a month, they are billed for the difference. If they send more than they use, they earn a credit that is carried forward to the next month.
In NV Energy territory, that leftover monthly credit is worth 75% of the retail price of electricity. Here’s an example of how it can work:
Every month, NV Energy calculates the difference between the solar energy a customer sent and what they used from the grid, then either applies any credit from the previous month to any outstanding balance or gives more credit for excess generation. The only charge that can’t be offset by the solar credits is the monthly grid connection fee of $12.50.
If you decide to go solar with NV Energy, you can choose between three types of rate plan to get net metering: standard, time-of-use, and EV.
NV Energy also offers different rates for the southern and northern parts of the state. These are holdovers from before NV Energy took over the service territories of Nevada Power in the south and Sierra Pacific Power in the north. In the south, the standard rate plan is called the Residential Single Family (RS), while northern utility customers get the Domestic Service (D-1) plan.
Choosing a rate plan that’s right for you can be complicated. In general, the standard rate plans are simpler to understand and therefore better for most people. The time-of-use options can be a good choice if you can regularly avoid using power during the hours of 5 to 9 PM during the summer or if you need to charge an EV at home.
All Nevada residents can take advantage of the federal clean energy tax credit for solar and energy storage. That credit provides up to 30% of the costs to install solar panels or home energy storage back on your taxes next year.
In addition to the federal tax credit and net metering program, NV Energy also offers an energy storage rebate called Power Shift. Under the program, solar customers can get money back when they purchase a home battery like the Tesla Powerwall.
The amount of the rebate is based on the number of watt-hours (Wh) stored in the battery. Customers on the standard rate plan can get a rebate of 9.5 cents/Wh, while those on the time-of-use rate get double, or 19 cents/Wh.
At those incentive levels, a 13.5-kWh Tesla Powerwall could earn a rebate of $1,282.50 for a customer on the standard rate plan and $2,565 on time-of-use.
NV Energy serves roughly 1.5 million households across Nevada, but it doesn’t cover much of the small towns and cities, especially in the eastern and northern parts of the state.
Unfortunately, the utility companies in those areas are not overseen by regulators on the Nevada Public Utilities Commission, and therefore aren’t required to offer net metering. That means customers of these utilities are left with a patchwork of rules that vary from “sorta like net metering” to “we don’t like solar here.”
Here’s a short breakdown of each utility’s rules:
Boulder City does a pretty good job with solar, allowing owners to install and use solar energy systems and offering full credit for excess energy up to monthly usage. Any net excess generation (when a customer’s solar energy sent to the grid exceeds their usage in a month) is credited at the city’s average wholesale cost, which is just a couple of pennies per kWh.
Harney Electric Co-op allows solar installations up to 25 kW, but charges a monthly fee of $10 to any customer with solar panels. The Co-op’s net metering policy says it retains the right to bill the customer for the net of in-flows and out-flows (energy sent by or to the customer) either at the retail rate or a wholesale power rate, and that the reconciliation of those energy measurements should occur “not less frequently than once a year.”
Basically, this could be a very good or very bad net metering plan, depending on what the Co-op decides to bill you. If they offer the retail rate for the net difference in energy consumption, that’s good. It could also be good if they offer the wholesale rate for net excess generation but only reconcile once per year. On the other hand, if they offer only the wholesale rate for all net kWh sent to them and reconcile monthly, it could be a bad deal. Work with a local solar installer and the Co-op to find a solution that works for you.
Lincoln County PD has a special rate for owners of renewable energy systems. Frankly, it is terrible for homeowners who want solar. First off, the renewable rate reduces the cost of each kWh down about 5 cents, then adds a monthly demand charge of $7.47 per kW of maximum demand.
Compared to the standard residential rate plan with charges of around 8 cents per kWh and no demand charge, it’s a bad deal. The low electricity rate means every kWh of solar energy is worth less, while the demand charge is assessed based on the maximum instantaneous power draw in a single time period during the month.
For example, a normal household may pull 10 kW or more when the homeowner runs common appliances like a refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes dryer, etc at the same time. That power draw would add a $74.70 charge on their monthly electricity bill, no matter how much electricity their solar panels produce, and only those on the renewable rate have to pay it.
Mt. Wheeler Power shows little interest in helping its customers use solar energy. Their page on solar power contains no information on net metering rates, only saying “if you have questions regarding solar, please give us a call. We'd be happy to discuss your plans.”
Overton Power District offers something like net metering to its customers. Its net metering policy lays out how a homeowner can install up to 10 kW of solar (which is enough for most people but it’s not very large), and receive full credit for electricity up to their monthly usage. Net excess generation is credited at the wholesale price the District pays for power.
On the surface, that’s not terrible, but their OPD’s rate structures are. Every residential customer pays a monthly connection fee of $32.40, which can’t be reduced by solar energy credits. Each kWh of electricity is very cheap, at between 7 and 10 cents based on the total usage (with prices increasing as the customer uses more energy).
In the end, it means a home solar installation here wouldn’t be very economical.
Raft River has no published solar rates or policies.
Valley Electric allows solar installations up to 25 kW, but records all the energy sent to the grid and pays customers a very low price for it. They also offer a very high monthly minimum charge of $35, which can’t be reduced by solar energy credits.
Wells REC has a page on its site about solar power, but that page specifically discourages people from installing solar, saying “the average monthly (WREC) electric bill is still well below the national average” and also “solar panels often don’t pencil out as a way to save money.”
They’re right about solar probably not penciling out, but they’re also not very forthcoming about the reason: WREC has very low rates for power, but a very high monthly connection fee of $33.89. That means your solar kWh are worth much less here than in other places, and you can’t reduce your bill below that monthly charge.
Solar absolutely makes sense for net metering customers of NV Energy. A credit of 75% of the retail value for any excess energy in a given month is a good policy, and the fact that it’s locked in for 20 years and increases along with energy prices should give you some peace of mind.
If you’re interested in the benefits of clean energy for your house, the next step is to find solar companies near you and start getting quotes for solar panels on your roof. Compare solar company offers carefully, ask a lot of good questions, and gain as much knowledge as you can before making a final decision you can be proud of.