- The Nevada Supreme Court yesterday rejected a ballot proposal backed by the state's solar advocates that seeks to restore retail rate net metering, saying the language was misleading and the proposal was ineligible as a referendum.
- The decision upheld a lower court ruling in March, which ruled the ballot proposal was unconstitutional, saying it sought to remove sections of a law rather than the full law.
- The decision is a setback for the rooftop solar sector in the state, which saw applications dwindle since a decision late last year to cut net metering rates, impose new fees and increase fixed charges on rooftop solar.
Nevada's debate over rooftop solar incentives has been one of the most contentious energy policy discussions of the year, with lawsuits filed against the PUC and armed observers showing up at one regulatory meeting.
The Nevada Supreme Court decision this week highlighted much of that contention.
A group of solar companies, headed by SolarCity, introduced the ballot measure in January of this year through the political action committee No Solar Tax. After a lower court ruling in March invalidated the proposal, the groups filed an appeal in the state Supreme Court.
The court on Thursday upheld that ruling, finding that the language used in the ballot proposal was misleading. That invalidates all signatures supporting the proposal and eliminates the possibility it will appear on the November ballot, PV Magazine reports.
Citizens for Solar and Energy Fairness, a group backed by utility NV Energy, had also described the measure as “affirmatively misleading.”
Disappointed by the court's decision, The Bring Back Solar Alliance, a group of solar companies and installers backed by leading company SolarCity, said the ruling "clarifies the role Nevada’s leadership must play in representing the majority of Nevadans who want to bring solar back to Nevada."
The ballot proposal remained a sticking point between regulators and solar advocates even after the net metering proceeding concluded. Commissioner David Noble, who drafted some of the proposals in the controversial decision, critiqued solar companies in a discussion at a regulatory conference last month, saying their calls for dialogue were disingenuous while they still supported the decision.
“That does not seem to be consistent with what they're saying that they want to engage with the commission and the process and get to value-based rates,” Noble, who will not be reappointed to the commission next year, said.
Noble's speech came on the heels of a strategy change at some rooftop solar companies. SolarCity, the largest residential installer, appointed former FERC chairman Jon Wellinghoff as Chief Policy Officer in April and pulled its membership from The Alliance for Solar Choice, an advocacy group that deployed aggressive lobbying tactics in Nevada.
Despite the referendum's failure, change could still be in store for net metering rates in Nevada.
NV Energy submitted a proposal for a limited grandfathering provision for the second time last month, similar to recommendations made by Gov. Brian Sandoval's New Energy Industry Task Force.
Like NV Energy's filing, the task force suggests a deadline of Dec. 31, 2015 to grandfather existing solar customers. The group has also been tasked with devising an alternative solar incentive to net metering by Sept. 30.