Nevada utility regulator Paul Thomsen resigns

Dive Brief:

  • Nevada Public Utilities Commissioner Paul Thomsen has resigned from the agency, and his last official day was last week, according to local news station KTVN 2.
  • Thomsen was tapped by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) to chair the PUC in 2015; current Chairman Joe Reynolds took over that position about eight months ago.
  • Thomsen took the reins in the middle of Nevada's contentious net metering debate, which resulted in reducing the compensation retail rate laid out in the state's policy. KTVN reports his resignation letter does not give a reason for leaving the commission.

Dive Insight:

When Thomsen was appointed to the PUC in 2015, renewable energy advocates welcomed his arrivalhe had a reputation in the private sector as a renewable energy advocate, and had previously had testified in favor of a bill that mandated the PUC to decide on a permanent net metering tariff, when he served as director of the Nevada Office of Energy.

But Thomsen eventually went on to lead the commission through Nevada's contentious solar debate, which resulted in a unanimous vote to essentially eliminate the retail rate and failed to grandfather existing customers into the original rates. He told Utility Dive last year "the evidence that was presented was pretty clear ... that there was a cost shift occurring and we made a rate design to eliminate that cost shift.”

The PUC replaced net metering with a lower rate alongside fees and failed to grandfather in existing systems.   though the initial decision impacted existed systems, regulators subsequently grandfathered in those customers.

The net metering decision was widely unpopular, and led two leading solar developers to exit the state and sparking national political backlash. In response, Sandoval created an energy task force, and chose not to reappoint two commissioners involved in the decision, including former Commissioner David Noble, one of the key architects behind the decision. Thomsen's role of chairman was given to Joe Reynolds.

Since the controversial decision, the PUCN subsequently approved a proposal from NV Energy and solar interests and grandfathered in those customers. ​Regulators also unanimously voted to partially restore the full retail rate for net metering to residents within the service territory of NV Energy's subsidiary Sierra Pacific Power. Even more recently, a Democrat lawmaker from Las Vegas introduced a bill that would restore net metering to all customers, and would set a floor rate they would be paid for the energy they export.

In Thomsen's resignation letter to the governor, he wrote: “The work of the PUCN is more imperative than ever as it touches the life of every Nevadan, and I will always be grateful to you for being given the opportunity to serve the Silver State.”

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Filed Under: Solar & Renewables Regulation & Policy