The New Energy Task Force convened by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) approved a draft recommendation for comprehensive energy reforms in the state last week, including a push for lawmakers to pass a bill reinstating retail rate net metering for solar customers until regulators can approve a comprehensive Value of Solar investigation.
The proposal, part of a wider reform push from the governor, also recommended the state reopen planning for the Clean Power Plan, consider bills to authorize a "minimum billing structure" for solar customers and require that utilities include energy storage and distributed resources in their generation and grid planning processes. The recommendations do not have the force of law, but they are the governor's energy policy roadmap for the state legislature in 2017.
Release of the draft proposal came days before the Public Utilities Commission, responsible for implementing many of the reforms, welcomed two new members appointed by Sandoval. Starting on Oct. 3, Sandoval's former general counsel Joe Reynolds and former Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Director Leo Drozdoff will replace the outgoing David Noble and Alaina Burtenshaw, both of whom voted to end retail rate net metering last year.
Less than a year after Nevada regulators voted unanimously to end retail rate net metering for both new and existing solar customers, the policy debate is coming full circle.
Regulators revoked the retail rate incentives in December and upheld their ruling in a February appeal. Rooftop solar companies howled, with major developers ceasing operations in the state and appealing to Sandoval to intervene. The governor responded by convening the New Energy Task Force to help resolve the net metering debate and direct broader energy policy for the state.
Meanwhile, solar companies and utility NV Energy continued to negotiate terms that would "grandfather" 32,000 existing rooftop solar customers under the old retail rate. Last month, regulators approved a settlement to do just that, only days after the Nevada State District Court for Carson City overturned the higher rates for existing solar customers.
Solar companies may now set their sights on the reinstatement of retail rate net metering for new customers — at least for a time. Last week, Gov. Sandoval's task force approved a draft proposal calling for retail net metering until regulators can conclude Value of Solar dockets for the state's utilities. To help offset utility costs, the group also proposed a $25 minimum bill for solar customers.
That would put Nevada solar policy roughly back where it was before the controversial Dec. 2015 decision, which regulators made under a deadline from previous legislation. But this time, the regulators on the commission will be different.
On Oct. 3, two of Sandoval's former staffers will start work on the three-member PUC, replacing two commissioners who voted to end the net metering program last year. Reynolds replaces Paul Thomsen as chair of the commission, though Thomsen will stay on as a commissioner, while Drozdoff's appointment will be temporary.
The appointments come after Utility Dive broke the news in July that Gov. Sandoval would not reappoint Commissioner David Noble, who presided over the net metering decision. Before his exit, Noble said the decision to repeal the solar incentives was based on a lack of evidence presented by solar companies, not any regulatory animus toward their lobbying tactics, as some sources alleged.
Rooftop solar groups applauded the task force's recommendations, which also include calls to restart Clean Power Plan compliance preparations and support distributed resources in utility planning. Solar lobbyists told PV Magazine fixed charges will soon rise to $40 per month for solar customers without legislative action on the issue.