Outlier: SolarCity Responds to Exclusion from Net Metering Case by Nevada PUC
On August 29, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC) excluded SolarCity from participating in a case (Docket Nos. 15-07041, 15-07042) that will decide whether about 17,000 current residential rooftop solar customer-generators can be grandfathered – rather than pay a raised fixed fee for net metering.
PUC Chairman Paul Thomsen’s order found that SolarCity did not have a direct and substantial interest in the [filings], according to a report by the local news organization, the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Expressing disappointment over the ruling, former Consumer Advocate for the State of Nevada and current SolarCity Chief Policy Officer Jon Wellinghoff released the following statement, “The Presiding Officer has excluded the one party that the people of Nevada actually chose of their own volition, their solar provider. It makes no sense to exclude these Nevada ratepayers from the table given SolarCity has been fighting for the grandfathering of these solar customers from day one.”
Indeed, on December 23, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said his company would pull out of Nevada rather than deal with a decision that would “end customer choice, damage the state’s economy, and jeopardize thousands of jobs.”
The decision in the application filed by Las Vegas-based NV Energy– a division of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy that serves about 17,000 interconnected solar customers statewide – will raise the fixed service charge for net-metered solar customers over a four-year period, even as it gradually reduces compensation for net excess solar generation from the retail rate to the wholesale rate for electricity, over the next four years. It will affect current customers retroactively, as well as new customers.
Specifically, the draft order will make the following changes, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
- Establish separate ratepayer classesfor all small commercial and residential net metering customers to ensure no cost shift to other ratepayers;
- Compensate at the wholesale market ratefor any excess energy produced through net metering systems;
- Increase the fixed chargeand correspondingly decrease the volumetric commodity charge, “to reduce inequities among net metering customers and non-net metering customers; and
- Offer an optional time-of-use (TOU) pricing optionto allow net metering customers to take advantage of energy generation that occurs during peak and off-peak demand period
SolarCity said that the company “has advocated the grandfathering of solar customers since day one.” On Christmas Eve, 2015, the day after the PUC issued an order to impose fees on solar customers that made their systems uneconomic, SolarCity joined with other solar companies and the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) to ask the commission to delay implementing the new rates on solar customers. The Public Utilities Commission denied that request.
On January 8 of this year, SolarCity recounted, along with an alliance of solar companies and the BCP, the company asked the PUC to reconsider its decision, emphasizing the need to grandfather existing customers. On February 17, the Public Utilities Commission denied the petitions.
Further, the company alleges, “While SolarCity and other solar advocates appealed as soon as legally possible in support of grandfathering, NV Energy waited five months – 161 days – to issue their Advice Letter.”
The delay presented a disadvantage to ratepayers, SolarCity said, noting that, “During those 161 days that NV Energy stood by, their customers had no choice but to pay NV Energy higher bills, as the utility collected on those increased fixed charges for existing solar customers that their tardily filed Advice Letter would reverse.”
Indeed, the company believes, “The utility’s delay gives credence to the cynical notion of some that this proceeding is meant to rehabilitate NV Energy’s waning public image, rather than support what’s in the best interest of Nevada’s solar consumers and other ratepayers”
In its written comments, SolarCity vowed to “fully support the immediate grandfathering of all existing rooftop solar customers in Nevada, and all who applied to install solar on or before December 31, 2015. Those customers should have been given relief in February when the Commission issued its denial of our petition for rehearing. They deserve relief immediately, without further delay by the Commission or NV Energy.
“We continue to believe,” SolarCity stated, “that all Nevadans should have the choice to affordably go solar. We will continue to advocate for grandfathering existing solar customers, and for fair and equitable rates for those who wish to go solar in the future.”
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