The three-member Nevada Public Utility Commission (PUC) on December 21 voted unanimously (Dockets No. 15-07041, 15-07042) to approve higher charges on all small commercial and residential owners of solar rooftop generation units as of January 1 – in a move that industry advocates say will squelch solar development in the Silver State.
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.”
In making the decision to cease solar sales and installation in the state immediately, Rive said the PUC had left him no choice. “The PUC has protected NV Energy’s monopoly and everyone else will lose.”
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, 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 classes for all small commercial and residential net metering customers to ensure no cost shift to other ratepayers;
- Compensate at the wholesale market rate for any excess energy produced through net metering systems;
- Increase the fixed charge and 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 option to allow net metering customers to take advantage of energy generation that occurs during peak and off-peak demand period
NV Energy has until January 8 to file the new rates, which will be phased in gradually over four years. The full effect of the new rates will depend largely on the amount of the fixed charges.
The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) has predicted that NV Energy will impose a $40 monthly fee on most solar customers, who typically save $11 to $15 per month on their electricity bills – effectively eliminating all savings.
The state already has reached its net metering cap of 235 megawatts (MW), established under Senate Bill 374 – and legislators have not moved to increase it. Advocates say that, if the solar industry in Nevada is constrained, it stands to lose about 6,000 jobs.