There will be no reindeer prancing happily on Nevada’s solar rooftops this Christmas. The Nevada Public Utilities Commission just took action against rooftop solar in a big and disparaging way. It just passed new regulations reducing the net-metering rates for solar rooftop customers and not just future rooftop solar customers—but for all of them.
The change will effectively reduce or essentially eliminate the amount of money homeowners expected to save on their solar installation and make rooftop solar power less appealing to new customers throughout the state. Under the decision, as of Jan. 1, 2016 the fixed service charge for net-metered solar customers will increase and compensation for net-metered solar power will be reduced from the retail rate to the wholesale rate over the next four years. They will apply to all solar rooftop customers, including those who previously installed a system.
“The broad application of the policy sets a precedent for future net-metering and rate-design debates,” wrote GTM Media’s Julia Pyper. “To date, no other state considering net-metering reforms has proposed to implement changes on pre-existing customers that would take effect right away. Changes are typically grandfathered in over a decade or more.”
“U.S. energy markets depend on stable policies that do not disrupt existing contracts,” Brian Nese, a partner in the energy development group at Stoel Rives told GTM Media. “The decision undermines this fundamental premise.”
"At a time when we should be encouraging customers to invest in energy independence through rooftop solar, the PUC chose to side with a NV Energy and hike fees for solar customers," said Elspeth DiMarzio, organizing representative for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "Nevada has the potential to be a national leader in the clean energy economy. By investing in clean energy we can create good, living-wage jobs. Right now, Nevada's clean energy jobs pay $8,000 more than the median wage for other jobs in the state. The number of solar jobs in Nevada doubled last year — but this decision will stop that trend in its tracks."
Rooftop solar companies, including SolarCity and Vivint Solar have said the change would prompt them to end their services in the state. That’s despite SolarCity’s recent build-out of a new training center in Nevada.
Nevada’s leading utilities, chief among them NV Energy have continuously fought the state’s net-metering regulations despite the minimal impacts rooftop solar has been shown to have on the utility and ratepayers. It looks like they have their first big victory with the new ruling.
But already installer and third-party owner Sunrun has sued Brian Sandoval’s (R) office over text messages between he and NV Energy regarding the debate. The Governor has not responded to Sunrun’s requests and distanced himself from the debate saying he had no part in it despite appointing two former NV Energy lobbyists to the PUC board.
The board’s decision also came despite strong opposition from residents, more than 31,000 of whom signed and delivered a petition to the commission in early December.Tweet