Sunrun on the run from Nevada in protest at utility fees


In the wake of changes made by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) to the state’s net metering scheme that saw SolarCity pull out of the state and announce 550 job losses, fellow residential solar installer Sunrun has announced its intention to leave Nevada.

Although no concrete figures are yet forthcoming, Sunrun warned that "hundreds of job losses" will result in the firm’s exit from the state, which has been prompted by the PUCN’s imposition of fees on rooftop solar systems and the introduction of new rate structures and a shift from retail to wholesale rates for any excess generation.

Many of Sunrun’s local installation partners will also be forced to downsize or close entirely, the company warned in a statement released on Thursday. Sunrun SVP of public policy Bryan Miller criticized Nevada’s apparent "baiting" of the solar industry and thousands of solar-hungry consumers.

"Nevada passed incentives to attract residents to go solar," Miller said. "But after baiting thousands of homeowners with incentives, the state switched the rules." The rapid growth of rooftop solar in many U.S. states has spooked many of the more traditional utilities, which have pressured governments to revise state and federal programs introduced to promote wider takeup of renewable energy.

The Nevada policy came into effect on January 1 and has been challenged by SolarCity, Sunrun and many other industry and environmental groups. The changes that have been introduced apply retroactively to the more than 16,000 solar customers in the state. These customers must now pay a higher monthly service fee and will receive lower green credits for the solar energy they produce.

As utilities have drawn lower revenues the more consumers adopt solar, NV Energy – a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway – has been a vocal proponent of introducing fees on solar customers.

Campaign group Vote Solar will lodge a request for a rehearing on the ruling this week, which will give NPUC 40 days to respond. An additional petition against the rate increase is also scheduled to be heard by a commissioner.

Republican governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, has issued a statement saying SolarCity should respect the process for allowing for the policy to be reviewed, and has pledged to assist any employees that lose their jobs should the policies remain in place.

"I will continue to support the renewable energy industry in Nevada and capitalize on our state’s incredible resources for solar, wind and geothermal power," he added.