NV Energy proposes "grandfathering" existing net metering installations as pressure mounts

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It’s been a strange day in Nevada. Today regulators moved forward with a request to hear evidence on a proposal to “grandfather” existing solar customers under the previous net metering rules, setting a date to hear evidence on February 8.

This is despite the main petitioner, the Nevada Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, withdrawing its request for a grandfathering hearing. In its place, another proponent of grandfathering has emerged: utility NV Energy, which pushed for the changes to the net metering policy enacted by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) two days before Christmas.

Solar advocates say that these changes destroyed the economics of customer-owned solar PV, and several of the nation’s largest residential PV installers have pulled out of the state. But perhaps the most egregious aspect of these changes is that they would apply retroactively to customers who invested in PV systems under the previous net metering rules.

"This grandfathering proposal is being offered in recognition of NV Energy’s desire to treat all customers, including those who had previously made a decision to install rooftop solar, fairly,” said NV Energy President and CEO Paul Caudill in a press statement issued today.

In this press release, NV Energy says that it will submit a new proposal on February 1 calling for customers who signed up under the previous net metering policy to stay under the original terms for up to 20 years.

Solar advocates say that this move is insufficient. “NV Energy’s recent grandfathering proposal is an attempt to calm the public outcry surrounding the PUCN’s decision,” says Vote Solar Interior West Regional Director Jessica Scott. “NV Energy’s proposal throws a bone to existing customers, but does nothing to address the other job-killing elements in the PUCN decision. Nevada’s families, businesses, and workers deserve better."

Pressure is mounting on Nevada Governor Sandoval and the PUCN, whose three members are appointed by the governor. This has taken many forms, with celebrity-attended rallies, statements criticizing the move by the two leading Democratic presidential candidates, and legal action. In addition to a lawsuit by Sunrun-backed the Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), at least two class action lawsuits over the net metering proposals have been filed in the past two weeks.

Additionally, today a new alliance of eight solar companies has begun a ballot initiative to overturn the PUC decision. SolarCity is one of the eight founding members of the No Solar Tax PAC, and supplied initial funding.

However, the alliance has drawn support from beyond the solar industry. “This referendum is about jobs, consumer choice and Nevada’s future,” said former Governor Bob List, a supporter of the referendum. “This alliance represents the people of Nevada, who overwhelmingly support bringing our rooftop solar back to the state.”