Today the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) has issued a ruling that may save the state’s rooftop solar industry from collapse. By approving a draft order filed yesterday afternoon by Commissioner David Noble, PUCN has ruled that potential solar customers will be allowed to participate under the same rules as the state’s existing net metering program until December 31.
This is despite a cap of 235 MW being hit on August 20 in the service area of the state’s main electric utility, NV Energy, which had temporarily ended the program. In the last week the state’s residential solar industry has ground to a halt, and residential installer Vivint Solar has canceled an expansion into Nevada.
News of the extension was welcomed by solar advocates. "We applaud the PUCN’s interim solution, and look forward to a final long-term outcome that protects customer choice for Nevadans and continues Nevada’s role as a solar energy leader," stated Vote Solar Interior West Regional Director Jessica Scott.
This move by PUCN echoes a proposal less than one week prior by the state’s ratepayer advocate, who called for the net metering cap to be extended until the end of the year. This position by the Bureau of Consumer Protection sharply contradicts utility claims that net metering must be stopped in order to protect utility customers.
PUCN staff have also acknowledged that net metering has little to no impact on other ratepayers, and a Commission study found that net metering represents a benefit to all customers.
But while net metering is technically preserved for the rest of 2015, PUCN has been clear that it has the right to modify the program as it sees fit. This can include potentially changing the length of time which PV system owners may participate in the program from a current 20 years.
PUCN has scheduled hearings on November 18 through 20 to further examine the details of net metering for new and existing customers, including grandfathering of systems into original contract lengths. The agency also plans to establish a new policy for 2016 by the end of the year.
Also today, Colorado regulators have decided to close a proceeding under which they were examining costs and benefits of net metering, and to take no action to modify the policy. The docket was originally opened in response to concerns by Public Service Company of Colorado, who alleged that net metering was causing a "cost-shift" to customers who did not install solar.
In more than one year of proceedings, The Colorado Public Utility Commission did not find compelling evidence that any significant cost shift was occurring. This is consistent with the findings of most other states who have examined net metering policies.
"They’ve learned a considerable amount about the issues here, but the challenge is that they are not sure about the best methodology to deal with this in the future, notes EQ Research Senior Rates & Research Analyst Kelly Crandall.