Nevada’s Public Utility Commission (PUCN) has effectively created a solar black hole for the statue’s growing distributed energy movement, voting unanimously on Wednesday against requests to delay implementation of controversial changes to metering rates.
One of the sunniest states in the country with a black hole? Absolutely, if you happen to be a distributed energy and net metering enthusiast, or as importantly, a company serving that market sector, like Vivint Solar, SolarCity, and Sunrun.
On December 23, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said his company would pull out of Nevada rather than deal with a decision that would “end customer choice, damage the state’s economy, and jeopardize thousands of jobs.” Apparently, Rive’s perspective had no impact on the three-member PUC’s unanimous decision.
These companies have now pulled up stakes in Nevada following the December PUCN action to change net metering remuneration rates and fixed fees for rooftop solar customers. The winner in this vote will be NV Energy, the state’s sole power utility.
Here is a snapshot of Wednesday’s events
- The Associated Press reports Nevada’s PUC on Wednesday unanimously voted against requests to delay implementation of controversial changes net metering remuneration rates and fixed fees for rooftop solar customers.
- Rooftop solar customers and installers had requested the commission put a stay on the new rates and charges, which the commission retroactively applied to existing solar systems, as well as new ones.
- Prior to considering the stay, Commissioner David Noble filed a draft order urging colleagues to not to delay implementing the rates, set to go into effect Jan. 1.
- PUC Chair Paul Thomsen said while the Commission was saddened by layoffs in the solar sector attributed to these reforms, the PUC was seeking a decision to “create a path forward” for rooftop solar users which treated all ratepayers equitably.
On its net metering section of its website, NV Energy tells customers:
“Over five years, the basic service charge will increase in gradual increments; each increment is accompanied by a related decrease in the energy charge that net metering customers pay for each unit of energy delivered by NV Energy. It also establishes a gradual process for decreasing the credit that NV Energy provides for energy delivered by net metering customers to NV Energy’s system. The rates that the PUCN sets for services provided by NV Energy, as well as the value of the credit for excess energy delivered by net metering customers, will be reset by the PUCN periodically.”
The new rates will increase the monthly charge for NV Energy customers with rooftop solar from $12.75 to $17.90 per month in the first year of the phased increase, and they will eventually reach $38.51 at the end of five years. The NEM credit for present and future solar owners would fall from $0.11/kWh to $0.09/kWh in the first year and then, progressively, to $0.026/kWh in 2020.
Nevada’s solar market has grown quickly in recent years, setting off a fierce debate between NV Energy and solar advocates as the rapid expansion of solar installations maxed out the state’s 235 MW net metering cap in 2015.
The state’s Legislature directed utility regulators in May 2015 to develop a new solar tariff that satisfied both sides by the end of the year. As expected, NV Energy proposed lowering the remuneration rates for solar customers and increasing fixed fees. NV Energy argued net metered customers were not paying their fair share to maintain the electric grid.
The state’s net metering cap was reached in August
According to Utility Dive, “Stakeholders had anticipated hitting the net metering cap by early 2016, despite warnings by The Alliance of Solar Choice (TASC) that the quick pace of solar PV installations would mean the cap would be hit earlier than the projected timeline.”
When the net metering cap was reached in August, it temporarily halted solar installations and prompted Vivint Solar to leave Nevada. With the departure of SolarCity and Sunrun, the net metering black hole appears to be more real than imagined.
The next meeting of the PUCN is slated for Jan. 25.
Image: Solar panels at Red Rock Canyon via Shutterstock
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