Nevada to phase in new rates for solar over 12 years


The future of net metering policies has been the most pressing issue for the U.S. rooftop solar industry, and nowhere has this fight been as fierce as Nevada. Late Friday the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) passed its first ruling that showed any concession for the solar industry and PV system owners, but the level of compromise is nowhere near enough to satisfy solar advocates.

Following a draft order last Wednesday by Commissioner Noble, on Friday PUCN ruled to move existing and new solar customers to new rates over a 12-year period, instead of four years as originally planned. However, this will still be a move to a rate and fee structure which advocates say destroys the economics of rooftop solar.

Solar advocates had been critical of the proposal since it first appeared.

“Make no mistake – Commissioner Noble’s proposal today does not protect existing solar customers,” said Bob Greenlee, spokesperson for the Bring Back Solar Alliance in a press statement on Wednesday. “It only drags out the punishment.”

Testimony over the proposal lasted until 1:30 PM local time, and saw the latest in public outcry over the retroactive moves by PUCN. Local television station KRNV states that among those testifying against the proposal was Reno City Council Member Naomi Duerr, who owns a rooftop PV system.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reported earlier in the week that three solar advocates wearing pistols in holsters attempted to deliver cards arguing against the ruling. While such actions are legal in Nevada, an “open-carry” state, they also indicated a higher level of tension.

Solar advocates have vowed to continue fighting. "The decision to change the rules on solar customers hurt thousands of Nevadans who had invested their own dollars in local solar power expecting a fair deal,” states Vote Solar Interior West Regional Director Jessica Scott.

“Today’s PUCN decision adds insult to injury for those existing solar customers and still does nothing to preserve jobs and continued opportunities for more consumers to go solar and save. Nevada’s families, businesses, and workers deserve better.”

Several challenges to PUCN’s December 22 ruling remain active, including a formal request for reconsideration, multiple lawsuits, and a Nevada ballot initiative to set legislation that would preserve retail-rate net metering.

Additionally, federal lawmakers including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) have filed an amendment to the current energy bill that would prevent undue changes to net metering by state regulators.