UPDATE: Rooftop Solar & Net Metering
In February, at the direction of the Nevada State Legislature, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission finalized its ruling on the state’s net-metering policy for rooftop solar generation.
Unfortunately, well-intentioned ratepayers invested in rooftop solar based on promises from the state. These promises were changed and undermined much to the detriment of the utility’s customers. The expectation that customers would be grandfathered under the previous, more favorable rates was not approved by the PUCN, but should have been.
Along with carving out a new, separate rate class for solar customers, the new model increases net metered customer service fees three-fold over time, while reducing by 75% the value of energy generated by net metered customers that is sold to the utility.
Many rooftop solar advocates claim that the changes are so dramatic that net metered customers will be paying more than non-net metered customers through the cost-shifting regulation. In addition to the impact on existing solar customers, many throughout the state saw this ruling as regressive and harmful to the industry’s viability. It has been reported that, as a result of this decision, rooftop solar installations have come to a virtual halt; Nevada has lost more than 1000 jobs as two national solar companies have left the state.
In late February, Governor Sandoval announced he was reconvening the New Energy Industry Task Force. One of the principal objectives of this committee will be to “support distributed generation and storage, with a specific focus on rooftop solar and net metering". This committee met for the first time on March 22, and established Technical Advisory Committees (TAC), one of which will specifically address distributed generation and energy storage.
Governor Sandoval expressed disappointment in the PUC's ruling stating, “While I have respected the Commission and its deliberations by not influencing its process, the PUC did not reach the outcome I had hoped for. I remained optimistic that the Commission would find a solution that considered the economic consequences to existing rooftop solar owners. Today’s [Feb. 12, 2016] decision does not go far enough to protect their interests. . . When I signed these bills, it was my belief that the utility rates should remain constant for homeowners who installed rooftop solar systems on their homes.”
In reaction to the ruling, the No Solar Tax political action committee has filed a ballot referendum to restore the original rate structure for rooftop solar customers and uncap net metering. This proposed referendum was challenged, and on March 28, Judge James Russell in Carson City ruled that the measure did not meet the requirements for referendum, but could be classified as an initiative petition.
An initiative petition approved by voters would also require legislative review before becoming law. The group plans to appeal Judge Russell's ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court. Judge Russell stayed his ruling to allow No Solar Tax PAC time to gather the 55,000-plus signatures required for the referendum should the PAC's appeal be granted by the court.
Clean Energy Project will continue to provide updates on the state of rooftop solar, and we look forward to working on a fair resolution to the PUC's ruling and detrimental impact to existing solar customers.