NV Energy filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada on Wednesday to grandfather net metering rates for rooftop solar customers who installed their systems or had approved applications to interconnect before 2016. Those customers would be allowed to remain on the retail net metering rate for 20 years.
“After a number of recent failed attempts to negotiate a resolution of this grandfathering issue with out-of-state private solar suppliers, it became clear that NV Energy needed to step up and act alone," Paul Caudill, president and CEO of NV Energy, said in a statement. "I have spoken with many of these net metering customers personally, and understand and empathize with their concern.”
In February, state regulators issued a final order that tripled the fixed charges solar customers and reduced the credit solar customers receive for net excess generation by three-quarters. But the most controversial decision was to apply those changes to Nevada’s nearly 18,000 existing solar rooftop solar customers and to transition them to the new rate over 12 years.
In an effort to grandfather in existing customers, solar advocates put forward a ballot initiative that would restore retail-rate net metering, which faced challenges from a utility-backed political group, as reported by GTM’s Julia Pyper. The Nevada Supreme Court was going to hear arguments on the ballot referendum in a few days, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Not only was NV Energy facing a potential ballot initiative that would have restored net metering, but it is also facing a class-action lawsuit from solar customers who said they were misled by the utility about incentives for solar.
Ballot initiative and lawsuits aside, the ball had already been moved out of NV Energy’s court. In May, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval's New Energy Industry Task Force passed a motion to grandfather solar customers onto the state's previous solar rate for 25 years. But that provision would not have gone to the legislature for approval until 2017, when it would be part of a larger energy bill.
"NV Energy petitioning the PUC to allow for this is an important step to make grandfathering a reality sooner for rooftop solar homeowners in limbo,” said Cory Honeyman, associate director of U.S. solar for GTM Research. “Otherwise, approving grandfathering could not have happened until next year once the state legislature reconvened. But while this ensures viable economics for rooftop solar customers back in 2015, moving forward, the approved rate and net metering reforms still leave Nevada's future rooftop solar market in question."
NV Energy’s troubles aren’t just limited to rooftop solar customers. In May, MGM Resorts filed with the PUC to pay an $87 million exit fee to leave Nevada Power and go source cleaner energy on the wholesale market. Not long after, data company Switch sued the PUC for $30 million in damages after denying its request to leave the utility last year.
The atmosphere in Nevada over solar has been particularly toxic and is not necessarily the same in some other states, where solar advocates, utilities and other stakeholders have recently started to take a more collaborative tone in working toward rate design beyond net metering.
NV Energy has asked the Nevada PUC to act on its request within 90 days.