On Thursday, Nevada’s New Energy Industry Task Force passed a motion recommending to grandfather in existing rooftop solar customers under previous net energy metering (NEM) rules for 20 years. The vote comes shortly after a technical committee approved a similar motion and sent it to the full task force for consideration.
In February, Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-Nev., reconvened the New Energy Industry Task Force following a controversial decision by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) last year to change the state’s NEM rules. The new policies severely cut the value of credits rooftop solar customers receive for the excess energy they add to the grid.
As Vote Solar’s Jessica Scott points out in a blog post, the decision affected not only new solar customers, but also the thousands of existing ones.
“In some cases, solar customers are unexpectedly facing higher electricity bills than if they had never gone solar at all,” writes Scott.
Earlier this year, the PUCN rejected a grandfathering proposal, but the task force’s newly approved motion recommends that the state legislature consider a bill allowing existing customers who submitted NEM applications by Dec. 31, 2015, to still cash in on the earlier, more favorable rates for 20 years. Although that’s a shorter time period than the 25 years the task force’s technical committee originally called for, it is still a significant and encouraging proposal.
Bring Back Solar, a group dedicated to overturning the PUCN’s NEM changes, has thanked the task force for recommending that existing solar customers benefit from “the solar rules they signed up for.”
In a statement, alliance spokesperson Chandler Sherman says, “The overwhelming consensus of the leaders from government, labor, the utility and the rooftop solar industry on the task force shows the broad support for protecting existing solar customers from the solar rate hike.”
Sherman also calls the vote “a tremendous victory” for all Nevadans, whether or not they have rooftop solar of their own, as a recent study has found that rooftop solar produces between $7 million and $14 million in net benefits for all utility customers in the state annually.
The proposal will now be sent to Sandoval – the next step in what could become a long process.
“While this is a significant milestone for a state mired in a highly politicized solar battle, existing solar customers will need to wait a little longer before the decision becomes law,” Scott writes in her blog post.
The New Energy Industry Task Force, which consists of state energy stakeholders, is tasked with making policy recommendations on more topics than just the NEM issue. According to Sandoval’s February executive order that reconvened the task force, the group will have through Sept. 30 to submit all of its decisions to the governor for review.
As Scott explains, “The governor will then select policy recommendations to move forward as bill draft requests in the 2017 legislative session.” If Sandoval decides to push the NEM recommendation, the issue would be up to the state lawmakers after that. The legislature reconvenes in February.
Meanwhile, Scott says Vote Solar is also working to appeal the PUCN’s NEM changes.
“If there is one message we want to send to solar customers and supporters in Nevada, it’s this: Hold tight, help is on its way,” she concludes.