Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed a handful of new solar and energy related bills today in Carson City to help the state pivot away from the anti-consumer, anti-solar net metering regulation that forced SolarCity out of the state in late 2015.
The bills were signed at the Tesla Energy warehouse in Las Vegas, which was no accident, as the sunny state of Nevada that is also home to the Tesla Gigafactory has tasted the jobs and economic value coming from Tesla’s operations. As a result of that, Tesla lobbying (we presume), Tesla’s popularity, and citizen demand for solar, Governor Sandoval made a wise and brand-savvy decision.
The new net metering agreement, Assembly Bill 405, reinstates net metering regulation for residential solar installations, which course corrects the policy back to a more reasonable rate. The 2015 change to net metering slashed the credit homeowners would receive for solar power sent to the grid, cutting it from the retail rate of roughly 12.5 cents per kWh down to the wholesale rate of 2.5 cents per kWh. See the problem there?
The new regulation creates 4 phases that work to drop the credit owners receive as more solar is added to the grid. This provides more incentive up front and allows the credit to drop over time, which is a more reasonable agreement for utilities. At the final stage, owners would still get credit for solar sent to the grid at 75% of the retail rate, which ensures that solar continues to be a viable long-term investment for owners.
In addition to correcting the unhealthy policy, the new regulation opens Nevada back up for business for solar installers, which brings us back to the Tesla Energy warehouse. Tesla has shared that it will begin selling rooftop solar and residential storage products in Nevada now that the state policy is supportive again, effective immediately. This is vindication for Tesla (and the former SolarCity units that had been operating in the state) as Tesla/SolarCity looks to scale operations back up, bringing more jobs and more clean energy to the state.
- Outright purchase — Buy the system outright for the lowest cost over the life of the system and the shortest return on investment.
- Solar loan — 10 year or 20 year loan option that allows customers to finance systems over a period that keeps solar loan payments comparable to or lower than utility bills.
- Solar lease — A low, fixed monthly payment that allows system hosts to install solar and save money with none of the upfront investment.
With the signing of the bill, Tesla has kicked off the process of hiring workers to staff its Nevada operations, heading back up to “full scale,” but clearly with an eye for growth too. Tesla anticipates creating hundreds of new jobs in the state as a direct result of the new legislation. In addition to staffing up solar installation operations in the state, it will also be expanding beyond its current Las Vegas headquarters and West Las Vegas warehouse, with new facilities coming to Reno and the greater Las Vegas area.
The news is a major milestone not only for Tesla but also for major installers SunRun and Vivint, which have both pledged to resume operations in the state if the legislation is signed into law. Vivint will move back into the state over a period of a few months. It will create about 100 jobs in the process. Vivint similarly pulled out of Nevada after the anti-solar legislation was passed in 2015.
Sunrun CEO Lynn Jurich shared that the company will definitely be moving back into Nevada now that operations are no longer stifled from the 2015 changes. “The near unanimous bipartisan support for legislation to reinstate net metering and establish a bill of rights for solar customers is a reflection of overwhelming public demand for affordable, clean energy options,” she shared. “Thanks to the hard work of Governor Sandoval and Nevada State Legislators, we can now say with confidence that Sunrun is coming back to Nevada.”
With this news, Greentech Media has started calling Nevada the “Most Exciting State for Energy Storage Policy,” and it is indeed a bright day for the solar industry and for the western United States.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) notes that Nevada lost almost 2,600 jobs from the 2015 legislation. Sean Gallagher, SEIA’s vice president of state affairs, commended the governor and the state’s leadership as a whole for their foresight and common sense:
“Governor Sandoval deserves credit for his leadership on solar. History will show that today Nevada took an important step that will return it to its rightful spot as a top solar state. This law will give homeowners and businesses who may have wanted to go solar the assurances they sought, and we expect strong solar growth and jobs to follow. We applaud Assemblymen Watkins, Brooks, Yeager, and Fugo and Senators Ford, Atkinson, Manendo, and Spearman for their efforts to prepare and pass this bill out of the Legislature.”