Nevada may be putting their heads back on straight

Late last year, Governor Sandoval and energy regulators in Nevada had a massive brain malfunction when the decided to reduce net metering incentives and imposed new fees for rooftop solar owners in the Silver State. Prior to the decision to screw over Nevada solar customers and businesses, the state’s solar market and installations exploded in recent years, passing the 235 MW net metering cap and therefor stalled all new solar builds in the residential sector. As a result, the two largest solar companies in the country, SolarCity and SunRun packed up their offices and hit the road. Such an insane disaster for a state that has as much sunlight as any in the United States.

The TASC Lawsuit

In March, a solar lobbying group called The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) filed suit against the PUCN seeking to overturn the PUC’s decision to lower net metering rates and increase fixed charges.  The lawsuit alleges the decision by the PUC to lower the remuneration rate and refusal to keep existing rooftop solar users on their original rates is a “big win” for utility NV Energy and comes at the expense of solar companies and their customers.

What exactly happened last year to blow solar out of Nevada?

The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) unanimously approved a new solar net metering policy in December 2015 that decreased the renumeration rate paid to rooftop solar customers for the power they export to the grid from the retail rate of the electricity down to the wholesale rate. The change would retroactively apply to all solar customers meaning no “grandfathering” of rates. for existing rooftop solar customers.

The new policy creates a separate rate class for all small commercial and residential net metering customers and a time-of-use pricing option for all.

The new policy established a time-of-use pricing option for all customers that will be gradually implemented over four years.

It would also include an increase in fixed charges alongside a decrease in the volumetric commodity charge designed to recoup costs from net metering customers.

All of this led to a 90% drop in new applications and therefore a departure by SolarCity, SunRun, and many other solar companies.

So What’s Next for Nevada Solar?

TASC and rooftop solar advocates are seeking to take their cause directly to voters. Their chances look promising after they gathered more than double the number of voter signatures needed to put a sweeping referendum on the November ballot. Now the Nevada Supreme Court has to decide if the measure was unfit for a statewide vote. The NSC is expected to rule shortly if the constituents get to decide how they consume energy in the Silver State. Seems ridiculous it has come to this, but that’s American politics for ya. Stay tuned…

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