Clean Power

Published on January 7th, 2016 | by Glenn Meyers


Rooftop Solar Slides Downward In Nevada; SolarCity To Cut 550 Jobs

January 7th, 2016 by  

Nevada may be considered an excellent location for producing solar electricity, but only if you happen to be this state’s solo power utility, Nevada Energy.

The once-popular idea of placing solar panels on rooftops in order to feed the grid as a distributed energy producer in order to receive compensation from the utility has become a “no-go” following changes from the Public Utilities Commission that reduce the credits customers receive for selling excess solar power to the grid.

Nevada shutterstock_340109873

Net metering becoming an oxymoron in Nevada; second-round victory goes to utilities

The Nevada Public Utility Commission (PUC) has changed rules surrounding net metering and increased the fees charged to the owners of solar systems. Following the Nevada PUC change order, reports from MIT Technology Review and Reuters state SolarCity is pulling back from the Nevada rooftop solar marketplace, cutting 550 jobs in the process.

“The departure marks an escalation in the war over net metering that is roiling the industry,” writes Richard Martin at MIT Technology Review.

SolarCity said it would cut 550 jobs in Nevada. The company indicated it would relocate the affected workers to business-friendly states. The company also closed a training center in West Las Vegas.

SolarCity CEO Lyndon has said he was “convinced” Nevada’s Governor and the utility commission “didn’t fully understand the consequences of the decision.”

While net metering in the US has propelled the spread of rooftop solar in some states, it has been met with staunch resistance in other states, including Nevada.

Nevada becomes the first state to drastically revise its policies on net metering, claiming net metering fees represent an unfair transfer of costs to the utilities and non-solar customers.

Some rooftop solar champions fear the Nevada ruling may spur a negative change in the economics of rooftop solar. Anticipated challenges to existing net metering programs are taking place in other solar markets, including California, Arizona, and New York.

Right now the future of net metering and the relationship between distributed energy owners and utilities remains unclear, writes Martin.

“Ultimately, the resolution of the net metering wars could come in the form of an open market for distributed energy generation, where producers can trade directly with consumers and prices are set by supply and demand, paired with some form of minimum service charge for the utility. Such systems have started to emerge in Germany and elsewhere.”

Image: Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park via Shutterstock

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About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

  • bmkester

    You can certainly count on it Robert. There is already evidence of other state’s commissions noticing. We have truly lost the battle here. Even the most cynical among us have little hope of legal recourse. Our governor called the PUC (members of his choosing) a quasi-judicial board and consequently, off limits to external influence.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Did you hear how the Spanish and Australian governments which were working very hard to screw renewables were voted out?

      Can’t say that’s the entire reason, but actions have consequences when election time rolls around.

  • bmkester

    You that live in the rest of the country – Take note of this!

    That roof top solar must be killed at this point, before allowed to “metastasize”, has now been given precedence. Don’t think your utility hasn’t sat straight up and noticed.

    We found no “green” thread of hope with mandated RPS’s either. NV Energy has done an end-around and built their own utility scale solar farms, and secured solar purchase contracts (read- renewable commitments) to the tune of 18% more than mandated in 2014. NV Energy has a guaranteed ROI of 10%, so more money spent on plants means more money out.

    In the words of one PUC staff member, “…bring the hammer down now before it gets out of control.”

  • yogi-one

    The utilities have realized something profound that Solar City realized years ago: that the solar revolution is going to take place household by household, not by a public utility or the government mandating that millions of homes go solar all at once. So they are attacking the enemy at its root: cut of the ability of the individual homeowner to go solar, and you kill the revolution. It’s a very dangerous and devious war tactic against the solar industry. The solar industry needs definitely to fight back legally, while making appeals directly to homeowners to expose the utilities’ deviousness. In the end, the utilities are simply trying to dominate the market so they can gouge the homeowners. The solar industry should launch a major PR campaign to make sure homeowners understand this.

  • yogi-one

    Nevada chops its nose off to spite its face. The sunny state is positioned to make the best use of solar and make dents in huge costs (such as powering Las Vegas), Instead they decided to be loyal to the fossil fuel companies who will give their thanks by gouging customers every chance they get. – while bankrolling Luddite denialist politicians.

  • Brian

    This Nevada utility should be sued for imposing outrageous fees on solar customers. Unless we make a stand now for solar power without unnecessary fines or taxation penalties imposed by these greedy utilities, that only want a monopoly, solar will continue to be bullied by these greedy electric utilities, who simply want a monopoly on electricity. Net metering worked in Germany, so I see no reason why we can’t replicate Germany’s solar success here.

  • kEiThZ

    In the long run, net metering is neither sustainable nor equitable, for all those customers who cannot afford solar or live in multi-unit dwellings (which are on the whole more environmentally friendly) where solar is not possible.

    The reward from going solar should simply be the end of regular electricity bills, with the savings offering a reasonable payoff period (7-10 years). Tax credits can adjust that payoff period favourably. Net metering isn’t necessarily required.

    • yogi-one

      Generally agree, but with one question: how can solar be ‘not possible’ for a multi-unit dwelling? Seems to me that if there is some unused rooftop space (which there almost always is) you could put panels on it. Even if there’s no roof space you could set up a panel adjacent to the building. Why wouldn’t that work for just about any dwelling?

      • kEiThZ

        Roof top solar on multi-unit will defray the cost of shared utilities (I’ve suggested this to my own condo board). But, in most cases, it’s hard to make use of rooftop solar to generate for every apartment in the building. Usually just not enough roofspace for that Especially in larger multi-storey buildings.

        A lot of discussion here, unfortunately, lacks anything more than a Americentric suburban perspective.

  • Matt

    A monthly fee if you have panels, plus driving net metering pay to as low as possible. Yea I think Nevada electric company won. Again PUC controlled by electric company are fox watching hen house. Also need to split generation from distribution. Will likely push people off grid, where having them be island able but still grid connected would be the more efficient approach.

  • vensonata

    I am sure there is a certain percentage that already have 7 or 8 kw PV on their roof in Nevada, which, according to NREL solar site PV watts produces well over 12,000kwh per year. It is remarkably even production with the minimum month of December able to generate 900 kwh. What are they waiting for? The batteries. Ironically the Tesla batteries are just spitting distance away, but need about 6 months or so to be easily available. The amount needed would be about $12,000. The total cost per kwh for the whole system ends up about 14cents kwh with all the rebates etc. The grid price is about 13 cents all in.

    The shortfall in bad weather should be trivial…run an extension cord to your neighbors house and borrow a cup of juice.

  • wildisreal

    “Some rooftop solar champions fear the Nevada ruling may spur a negative change in the economics of rooftop solar.”

    That is understatement. The economics have been destroyed by this ruling. That is why SolarCity is closing everything down; why hang around and be strung out? This wasn’t a trivial change. NV decided it’s citizens don’t get solar. States that support solar are states that care about empowering their citizens. Literally. NV has decided monopoly is more important.

  • JamesWimberley

    It looks as if SolarCity have picked a fight in Nevada, after a draw in Arizona. They are accepting some losses to make a point, betting that the political tide has swung in favour of solar.

    • bmkester

      James….I wish it were so. We have truly lost the battle in the state with the most to loose. Condolences to you in less politically keen states.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    A perfect state for going off-grid entirely.

    • Emanuel Maceira

      Couldn’t agree more. Glad to see that these companies are holding the states accountable for the status quo.

    • Otis11

      Unfortunately, the price of electricity is only 11.7c per kwh on average… making storage non-viable at the moment. (Which is why this is an issue).

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