As the debate over infamous net energy metering (NEM) changes continues in Nevada, utility NV Energy is again asking state regulators to grandfather in rooftop solar customers under the previous NEM rules. However, some solar installers have deemed the utility’s renewed request “too little, too late.”
In December 2015, a Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) decision slashed NEM rates and established new fees related to rooftop solar, and some solar companies closed up shop in Nevada as a result. In addition to calling for the PUCN to completely reverse its decision, both the local and national solar industries argued that existing solar customers should be able to receive the NEM rates they initially signed up for in Nevada. After facing immense pressure, NV Energy – which, like many other utilities around the U.S., claimed NEM is a subsidy that unfairly burdens non-solar customers – made a last-minute grandfathering proposal in February. At the time, solar stakeholders called the utility plan a “bait and switch.”
Ultimately, the PUCN denied a NEM grandfathering clause, meaning existing customers have also been subject to the newer NEM rules.
Now, NV Energy has filed a new proposal with the PUCN that rooftop solar customers who either added their installations or had active NEM applications before Dec. 31, 2015, be allowed to cash in on the previous NEM rates for 20 years. The proposal resembles a recent recommendation from Nevada’s New Energy Industry Task Force.
“After a number of recent failed attempts to negotiate a resolution of this grandfathering issue with out-of-state private solar suppliers, it became clear that NV Energy needed to step up and act alone,” comments Paul Caudill, president and CEO of NV Energy, in a press release. “I have spoken with many of these net-metering customers personally and understand and empathize with their concern. We simply did not want to wait any longer to offer a solution on their behalf and believe our filing today represents the most efficient and timely way to do that.”
The utility has asked the PUCN to take action on its proposal within the next three months. In its press release, NV Energy also seems to place some blame on solar companies, claiming nationwide installers might have misled Nevada customers.
“Unfortunately, it appears that these out-of-state solar suppliers are more concerned with increasing the subsidies needed to run their businesses than taking care of their approximately 32,000 contracted customers [in Nevada], who are our customers, too,” says Kevin Geraghty, NV Energy’s senior vice president of energy supply.
“It seems that they created uncertainty for customers who purchased or leased a rooftop system by not clearly communicating that their rates were subject to change in future regulatory proceedings,” continues Geraghty. “Many of these net-metering customers entered into 20-year leases believing that they would be locked into a rate and that they would save money because NV Energy rates would increase every year. Neither of these sales pitches are true.”
In a joint press release, local solar installers 1SunSolar, Robco Electric, Sunworks, GoSolar and Sol-Up USA have fired back against NV Energy’s claims.
The installers say that although they thank the utility for “joining us in speaking out on the urgent need to grandfather” in existing solar customers, “It’s disappointing that NV Energy, while speaking to the press about their support for grandfathering, waited 161 days to respond to the commission.”
The installers also suggest NV Energy’s timing is fishy, pointing out that the utility’s proposal and related press release came shortly before the Nevada Supreme Court is slated to consider allowing Bring Back Solar’s referendum to fully undo the PUCN’s NEM changes on the November election ballot.
“Unfortunately, NV Energy’s press release is too little, too late,” say the installers. “Nevada must right the wrong that has been done to the state’s existing solar customers, but also allow Nevadans the choice to go solar in the future without being punished with discriminatory charges.”
They continue, “It’s time for real action, to restore consumer choice, jobs, and Nevada’s solar potential. And if our leadership won’t take action, it should be up to the voters to decide.”