Solar sector pleased as Nevada Gov. appoints Office of Energy head to PUC
- Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) has appointed Paul Thomsen, the Director of the state Office of Energy, to a post in the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to replace outgoing commissioner Rebecca Wagner, the Las Vegas Sun reports.
- Thomsen's reputation in the private sector as a renewables advocate pleased solar advocates, and his appointment coincides with a handful of high-profile renewable energy cases on the PUC docket. Earlier this year, he testified in favor of a bill that mandated the PUC to decide on a permanent net metering tariff by the end of the year.
- Nevada's PUC is weighing a handful of notable — and controversial — cases regarding the state's net metering tariff and a proposal from a casino to generate power independently of the state's major utility, NV Energy, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Energy.
Mostly known for its casinos, Nevada has stepped into the nation's spotlight as one of the most volatile states for the solar sector. But renewables advocates are hopeful Gov. Sandoval's latest appointment to the Public Utilities Commission could create a more favorable atmosphere for the solar industry.
Paul Thomsen, Director of the Nevada Governor's Office of Energy, had testified in favor of finding a new net metering rate in May as lawmakers set a mandate for the PUC to come up with a tariff that works for both sides.
Earlier this year, the blooming residential solar sector hit a state-mandated 235 MW cap on rooftop solar systems while fending off efforts by the state's major power producer, NV Energy, to revamp net metering — the rooftop solar user's ability to sell excess energy back to the grid at the retail rate.
Nevada's Legislature passed a bill in May requiring the PUC to set a permanent tariff on rooftop solar systems by the end of the year. While many solar advocates applauded the bill, some solar companies like SolarCity pushed lawmakers and regulators to either keep the current net metering tariff or raise the solar cap if it was reached before a decision on new tariffs is reached by the end of the year.
But the agency rejected a July petition by the The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) to preserve the current net metering rate. Breaching the rooftop cap in August pushed the agency to relent and keep the current rate in place until the end of December.
The current contentious atmosphere already pushed Viviant Solar to cease its operations in the state, with TASC reiterating that roughly 6,000 jobs in the solar industry are at stake in Nevada.
Follow Krysti Shallenberger on Twitter