Public Utilities Commission of Nevada makes decision on solar energy bill
September 1, 2017
Carson City – The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) issued a key decision implementing AB405—a bill which passed the legislature with bipartisan support and Governor Sandoval signed into law on June 15 to immediately bring rooftop solar back to Nevada. The law protects solar customers from discriminatory rate hikes and gives them fair credit for energy they send to their neighbors, displacing dirty energy mix that would have otherwise been provided by the utility.
“Governor Sandoval signed AB 405, which had nearly unanimous approval from the legislature, because of overwhelming public support to restore solar energy choice and market certainty for Nevadans. Rather than implementing the bipartisan AB 405 and restoring net metering as the Legislature intended to bring back solar, NV Energy's proposal would have continued the failed policies of 2015 that nearly wipe out solar in Nevada and cost thousands of solar jobs," said Jessica Scott, Interior West Director for Vote Solar. "The past two years proved that Nevadans – both as ratepayers and as voters – absolutely will not stand for anti-solar, anti-consumer action from their leaders. Vote Solar applauds Chairman Reynolds and the PUCN for respecting the legislative intent of AB405 and fairly implementing the law."
"Today's PUCN decision will give many Nevadans a meaningful opportunity to power their homes with solar and will reestablish the rooftop solar industry in Nevada, which is exactly what the legislature and Governor intended," said Earthjustice attorney Jill Tauber.
After legislation in 2015 and a Public Utility Commission decision later that year imposed punitive rates for customers with solar, the rooftop solar industry in Nevada cratered. Thousands of jobs were lost, companies left Nevada, and customers were deprived of their right to go solar. Reversing course this year, the legislature restored the economics of solar and prohibited discriminatory rates. Yet, even after the new legislation, NV Energy proposed new rates that would have undermined the new law by hiking unavoidable monthly charges for all customers. NV Energy's proposal would have also undermined rooftop solar options for customers by continuing the failed rate system created in 2015 that effectively killed the solar industry in Nevada and resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs.
"Nevadans have said loud and clear they want the choice to install solar on their own homes and see solar jobs grow again in Nevada. That was the intent of AB 405, and we are pleased the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada recognized that in its ruling today. Solar businesses in the state now have the certainty they need to get back to work, which means the jobs and economic benefits will follow in short order,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
Vote Solar intervened to oppose NV Energy's unlawful proposal, represented by Earthjustice.
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Today's decision orders NV Energy to charge solar and non-solar customers the same fees and to compensate customers for solar energy they send to the utility through a system called "net metering" which allows the utility to charge solar customers only for the "net" (or difference) between what the customer uses and what the customer produces with solar during the month. Any extra solar generation carries over as a partial credit for future months' bills.
The Commission also rejected NV Energy's request to immediately hike unavoidable "fixed" charges for all residential and small business customers as part of the decision today. However, the monopoly utility could again seek to hike unavoidable charges in the future, including in its current rate case for southern Nevada. Fixed charges take a toll on lower-income, fixed income, and energy-efficient customers and undermine customers' ability to control their bills. Even without another hike, NV Energy's existing residential fixed charges are already among the highest fixed charges in the western region. If the monopoly utility seeks to do so, Vote Solar and Earthjustice will stand with other consumer and environmental advocates against them.