Nevada regulators deny 'grandfathering' provision for existing rooftop solar users

Dive Brief:

  • Nevada regulators last week refused to grandfather existing solar customers into original net metering rates, instead keeping a new net metering policy, which reduces the retail net metering rate to the wholesale rate, relatively intact, the Las Vegas Sun reports. The ruling approved the provisions laid out in a draft proposal by Commissioner David Noble rolled out last week before the hearing. 
  • The controversial case has drawn the attention of Presidential candidates, state and federal lawmakers, and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), who criticized the decision and called on the Legislative Committee on Energy and the state's New Energy Task Force to find a solution.
  • The Las Vegas Sun reports Sunrun, an installer which has ceased its operations in Nevada, has indicated it will file a lawsuit challenging the decision. 

Dive Insight:

The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada's refusal to grandfather existing rooftop solar users into existing rates has drawn fire from political heavyweights inside the state and out. 

The list is impressive. According to the Las Vegas Sun, Presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Sectretary of State Hillary Clinton both favor grandfathering in existing customers along with Gov. Sandoval. 

Last week, the PUCN voted to keep their revised net metering policy with the exception of one consession, which would gradually implement the new rates and fixed charge increases over a period of 12 years instead of four — raising them from $12.75 to $38.51 by 2028. Increasing the timeline for gradual implementation was part of NV Energy's new proposal, which did include a grandfathering provision for existing rooftop solar owners over a period of 20 years. 

Approved in late December, the new net metering policy slashed the retail remuneration rate for net metering customers down to the wholesale rate, created a separate rate class for small commercial and residential solar users, and established a time-of-use pricing option for all customers that will be gradually implemented over four years. Regulators also approved an increase in fixed charges and a decrease in the volumetric commodity charge in order to better recoup grid upkeep costs from net metering customers.

Several provisions have sparked anger from the state's solar sector, including the controversial "grandfather" provision that incorporated 17,000 existing distributed solar users into the new rates and fees, along with the new users. Leading solar developers SolarCity and Sunrun ceased operations in the state shortly after the ruling, terminating more than 600 jobs. A group of rooftop solar customers also filed a class action lawsuit against NV Energy. 

Sunrun announced its intentions to sue the PUCN after its latest ruling. 

"This decision is clearly unjust and unacceptable for Nevadans. We will sue to overturn the anti-solar rules, and we will win," Sunrun spokeswoman Lauren Randall told The Las Vegas Sun.

Gov. Sandoval, who had remained quiet through the deliberations, issued a statement“While I have respected the Commission and its deliberations by not influencing its process, the PUC did not reach the outcome I had hoped for...Today's decision does not go far enough to protect their interests."

The debate has been tense, at one point including armed observers and calls for civil debate from Sandoval. Heightened security measures were present at the hearing, following low-level threats, the news outlet reported. Following the commission's decision December, Utility Dive reported that aggressive solar lobbying tactics may have alienated regulators during debate on the solar remuneration rates. 

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Filed Under: Solar & Renewables
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