The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) is moving forward to restore net-metering, encouraging more rooftop and utility-scale solar development in northern Nevada, in NV Energy’s Sierra Pacific Power Company (SPPC) territory. The move reverses its December 2015 decision to end net-metering for residential and commercial customers across the state.
The PUCN will allow an additional 6 megawatts of rooftop solar to net-meter in 2017. The ruling also allows existing rooftop solar customers to keep their existing net-metered rate structures. Additionally, the PUNC approved a plan that lengthens rate-based contract terms for utility-scale solar facilities from 10 years to 25 years.
“The commission took a small but important step toward re-aligning rates with the goals that state policymakers and the people of Nevada share: to see more homegrown solar powering their communities and their economy,” said Jessica Scott, regional director of Interior West for Vote Solar. "Today’s votes signal that Nevada is ready to lead on solar once again, and we look forward to continuing to work with regulators and lawmakers to chart that strong long-term path forward.”
Vote Solar and Earth Justice have been fighting the decision last December to end net metering across the state when the commission voted in December 2015 to cut net-metering compensation from retail to wholesale rates—immediately and for all customers, even existing ones. Major solar installers, including SolarCity and Sunrun, left their operations in Nevada when the PUNC denied grandfathering net-metering rates for existing rooftop solar customers in September 2016.
“Today the PUCN affirmed that solar power is ready to be a significant, competitive energy resource for the people of Nevada—and that the utility has once again underestimated and undervalued this plentiful renewable resource,” said David Bender, Clean Energy attorney at Earthjustice. “Clearing the way for investment in solar power of all sizes, whether on rooftops or in utility-scale plants, builds healthier communities, creates good local jobs, avoids sending ratepayer money to out-of-state miners and frackers and helps make Nevada the clean energy leader it should be.”
Net-metering, which allows residents to sell excess energy produced by their solar arrays back to the grid, has always been a contentious debate, even in sun-rich southwestern states like Nevada and Arizona. Utility companies argue that the cost of integrating solar through net-metering into existing grid infrastructure is expensive and contend that costs should be handed down to solar customers through installation fees and volume-based rates.
While the PUCN’s decisions maintain grandfathered rates for existing rooftop customers and further utility-scale solar development, it does not provide a long-term plan for the state. More hearings are scheduled to take place in the near future between regulators, renewable energy advocates and utilities to address creating a long-term plan that could lead to solar-friendly policy changes in for southern Nevada and the entire state.