PUC Decision May Signal Demise of Nevada Solar

By John Kennedy
March 04, 2016
NV Energy Rate Hikes for solar

The Nevada Power and Utilities Commission recently weighed in on the state's net metering debate with bad news for solar customers and the solar industry at large. Earlier this month, they okayed NV Energy's initiative to raise rates universally for solar customers. Their decision was the latest blow to solar in the ongoing conflict between the solar industry and with its customers, and utility NV Energy.

Back in December NV energy initially proposed a brand new rate structure for solar customers using their service. Their gradual price increase (initially kicked into gear at the end of last year) would eventually triple NV Energy's solar customers' fixed rates, while lowering the rate they receive for energy sent back to the grid to $0.02, down from $0.11. The end result of their proposed rate hikes would be a nearly 40% increase to monthly bills. All told, lifetime costs of solar systems would increase by an estimated $8,000 to $9,000 by some estimates, or even up to $11,000 according to solar city. While this is troubling to the solar industry, and those who were considering installing a photovoltaic system of their own, those who are left worst off are those who have already adopted solar.

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The new rate structure would not only apply to new solar customers while previous ones are grandfathered in. Instead, the new rates would affect all 18 thousand existing solar customers as well. This particular aspect of the rate hike has led many to deem it a "bait and switch", as NV energy is seemingly changing the rules of the game midway through. Predictably, Nevada solar customers are furious, with most arguing that they never would have gone solar had they known such perverse price increases were headed their way. Now, panel owners are concerned that they may never recoup their initial investment. Solar has transformed for many from a source of savings, to an additional cost, as rates have risen to levels higher than those for their non-solar counterparts.

The PUC's decision is not the end of the matter. In fact has already seen widespread public backlash. A group called the Bring Back Solar Alliance is leading a ballot initiative to overturn the PUC's ruling. Their effort has been met with significant encouragement and support, having received over 55 thousand signatures in a short time. These signatures ensure that the initiative will reach the statewide ballot later this year.

In the meantime, solar customers in other states raise concerns that the Nevada ruling sets a dangerous precedent. With almost half the states in the nation considering revisions to their net metering rates, there is concern that many will follow Nevada's example, invalidating solar energy as an economical alternative on a large scale. However, another take on the situation is that states will be cautious in their rulings since the Nevada decision received such significant opposition.

John Kennedy

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John Kennedy

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