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Nevada PUC Rebuffs Requests to Stay Rooftop Solar Rate Hike

January 20, 2016 By Cheryl Kaften

The Nevada Public Utility Commission (PUCN) on January 13 voted (Dockets No. 15-07041, 15-07042) to deny two motions to stay regarding new net metering rates that went into effect statewide on January 1.

“The motions to stay fail to establish any factors that would support staying the commission’s final order or the tariffs filed therein,” the PUCN wrote in the order denying the stays.

Prior to the decision, the commission heard hours of testimony from activists – among them, actor Mark Ruffalo – who protested that the changes approved on December 22 would squelch solar development in the Silver State.

The changes had been based on the PUCN’s finding that, “under existing rates, costs are being unreasonably shifted away from small commercial and residential net metering customers to other ratepayers, resulting in non-net metering customers paying higher rates to compensate for the reduced collection of revenue from net metering customers.”

Indeed, at the January 13 session, Chairman Paul Thomsen noted that the commission had to consider “balancing the rates for 28 million people who live in this state” – not just for those who have rooftop solar generation.

“We have heard a lot of rhetoric and, I would call it, hyperbole, in the comments on this [order],” Thomsen said at nearly the six-hour mark of the meeting, with some degree of vehemence. “We had hearings for four days most recently, but we have been studying this issue for several years. This state first passed net metering in 1997 – almost 20 years ago – and the commission and the highly qualified individuals who work here have been working [on this issue] since that time, so I take offense … to all the comments about how we didn’t know what we were doing and that we didn’t do our homework.”

Thomsen added, “This commission has been working tirelessly not to penalize people or to favor one technology over another, but to create a path forward for rooftop solar in this state that treats all ratepayers fairly.”

He clarified to those present, “It doesn’t make me uncomfortable to try to protect 98 percent of residents in this state who don’t have net metering on their roofs. I think we can find a balance. I think we can continue to do that.”

At the January 13 session, the commission did not vote on petitions for reconsideration, as that is a separate issue, Peter Kostes, PUCN Public Information Officer told RETAIL ENERGY BUYER in an email. Apart from motions to stay, several parties filed petitions for reconsideration or rehearing by the January 8 deadline. The commission now has 40 days to accept or deny those positions. The presiding officer will issue a draft order on the petitions and that recommendation will be considered by the PUCN at one of its meeting in late January or early February.

Prior to the January 1 effective date of the order, solar customers paid a fixed fee of $12.75. Now, they are being asked to remit a service charge of $17.90 – a fee that will gradually rise to $38.51 by 2020.

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