Perhaps you are at Solar Power International in Las Vegas right now, wondering what’s the latest in the effort to fix the Nevada solar debacle? If so, here’s your cheat sheet.
There are five venues where the ongoing and untenable situation for rooftop solar in Nevada can be resolved.
First, via legal challenge. We believe that the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada’s original net metering decision was legally flawed. The PUCN is required by law to offer net metering, and the buy-all, sell-all mechanism it came up with is not net metering. In addition, its decision-making process left a lot to be desired, as the conclusions were not supported by the evidence on record. So we teamed up with our partners at Earthjustice and appealed the decision in district court (SolarCity and Sunrun did as well, but their lawsuits have been thrown out on procedural grounds).
We expect oral arguments to be scheduled soon, and hope the case winds up around November. But that’s up to the judge. We believe we have a strong case on the merits -- and frankly, if you take the governor at his word when he said he was disappointed in the PUCN’s decision, we’re in good company.
The second venue is via a hearing at the PUCN. The commission has scheduled a hearing for September 19 to consider grandfathering the existing 32,000 solar owners under the old net-metering mechanism. After the hearing, a decision could be made at the commission’s meeting on September 28. While a favorable outcome would be welcome news for current solar owners, this process won’t address how future solar customers can go solar.
The third path to resolution is via the legislature. My colleague Jessica Scott has been appointed to an advisory committee to the governor's New Energy Industry Task Force, which provides policy recommendations for the legislature to consider. Governor Sandoval accepted the task force recommendation to grandfather existing solar customers onto the previous net metering rules, and his energy office is now sponsoring proposed legislation to this effect.
The task force has also recommended changes to the state’s resource-planning process, and is still considering the future of net metering. The task force is scheduled to wrap up its work by the end of September, so stay tuned for developments regarding policy options for new investment and participation in solar going forward.
Sound legislative solutions will be met with strong constituent support. In addition to the Bring Back Solar campaign, Vote Solar has joined forces with eight other organizations to launch RenewNV -- a coalition of community stakeholders who are all working to advance clean energy policy in Nevada. Support for solar progress is both broad and deep among Nevadans, and together our coalition is working to make those voices heard.
Our RenewNV partners, which include Chispa Nevada, the Las Vegas Urban League, Small Business Majority, Nevada Conservation League Education Fund, Clean Energy Project, League of Women Voters, Institute for a Progressive Nevada, and UpLift Foundation of Nevada, together represent communities of color, local businesses, youth, and conservation groups -- solar supporters in all our strong diversity.
The fourth key venue is in the upcoming utility rate cases. In its February 2016 net-metering decision, the PUCN deferred several issues to future rate cases, including the valuation of excess energy according to a new 11-factor analysis. The commission’s prior decision also ordered utilities to propose a line item called “net energy metering subsidy” in its next rate case.
Sierra Pacific just filed a new general rate case and an integrated resource plan, and with our counsel Earthjustice, we’ve intervened in both to defend the rights of solar customers to get fair value for their solar generation. There are hearings all fall, and the outcome will be incredibly important to the future of solar in Nevada. Nevada Power is expected to file its next general rate case next year.
Finally, if all else fails, there’s still the ballot initiative process. Solar polls very high in Nevada -- a whopping 73 percent of voters support solar progress, not to mention the good jobs, local investments, and healthy environment that comes along with it -- and if the issue is not resolved in a timely manner, expect to see it put before the voters.
So there you have it. Those are the five paths to solar resolution in Nevada. Now you can feel up-to-date at the SPI cocktail parties and impress with your insider knowledge.