The Nevada Public Utilities Commission has voted to extended the state's existing solar net metering policy through the end of year, as the commission debates the future of the program.
The decision brings a temporary end to a battle that broke out in July, when NV Energy announced the state was approaching its 235-megawatt net metering cap. Nevada hit the limit on net-metered solar projects last Friday, months earlier than NV Energy originally predicted.
Net metering, which allows customers with solar panels to sell excess energy back to the grid, is one of the solar industry's most important policies. According to the Alliance for Solar Choice, Nevada's solar market shut down last week with news that the previous cap had been reached. Vivint Solar suspended operations in the state a few weeks earlier amid the policy uncertainty.
Today's 3-0 vote is a victory for solar advocates who lobbied to keep existing rates in place, including the hundreds of solar workers who made their case before the commission over the last month. Nevada's solar industry currently employs around 6,000 people.
“We are grateful that the commission’s decision will allow Nevadans to return to their jobs today, while the commission determines long-term rules for solar net metering," said Bryan Miller, co-chairman of TASC. "Nevadans will remain vocal to ensure that these rules allow Nevada’s solar industry to continue creating jobs and driving economic growth.”
Earlier this month, NV Energy filed an alternative solar policy with the PUC that would have reduced the value of net metering credits and added new fees on solar customers. The utility argued the changes are needed to avoid unfair cost-shifting to other non-solar customers.
In light of today's vote, NV Energy said it will work with commissioners and solar advocates to find an acceptable long-term solution. The PUC is required to decide on a permanent net-metering structure by December 31.
"While the interim rate approved today was not what the company proposed, we supported Senate Bill 374 along with the rooftop solar industry, which determined that the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada is the appropriate body to define future net-metering rules and rates," said Jennifer Schuricht, spokesperson for NV Energy, in an emailed statement. "As we have said from the beginning, we support cost-competitive renewable energy in all forms, and will continue to work with stakeholders through this interim period to ensure Nevada retains its leadership position in the development of renewable energy."
The PUC in Colorado, meanwhile, has also voted to uphold net metering in its current form, despite calls for change from the state's largest electric utility, Xcel Energy. Today's win for the solar industry stems from more than a year of meetings and commission deliberation in the state, said Jessica Scott, regional director of the Interior West for Vote Solar.
Scott praised commissioners in both Colorado and Nevada for supporting policies that protect consumer choice. But while solar advocates are pleased with these recent victories, they still see a rough road ahead.
"Over the past couple of years, utility interests have made it clear that they want to stall consumer solar adoption and have chosen net metering and rate design as their targets for achieving that end. We don't expect that to change significantly in the year ahead," said Scott. "2016 will be another critical year for these fights over our energy future. But we are hopeful that commissions and policy leaders will continue to see past the utility rhetoric, recognize the true value of distributed renewables, and uphold solar options for the consumers they serve."