After months of heated debate, state lawmakers this year promised to work out a deal to ensure more homeowners could produce electricity with solar panels.
The debate was focused on Nevada’s regulated monopoly NV Energy, and the growing rooftop solar industry.
The solar people want the state to expand the number of homes that can get credit for producing excess electricity from solar panels. They call this net-metering.
NV Energy doesn’t want net metering to grow because it says those credits hurt customers who don't have rooftop solar.
When net metering was introduced, the state capped the amount of power that could be sold back to NV Energy. The solar power industry insisted that without increasing that cap, the growing solar-installation industry in Nevada would dry up. The industry estimates 6,000 people are directly employed by the solar industry in the state.
Governor Brian Sandoval signed Senate Bill 374 in May that sought to find compromise by allowing for net metering but also allowing NV Energy to charge people with solar panels a tariff.
Kyle Roerink, a reporter with the Las Vegas Sun, said the idea behind the bill was to give “solar a bit of wiggle room” and put the ball in court of the Public Utilities Commission.
But just last week, the solar industry filed a petition with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada saying, in essence, NV Energy mislead state lawmakers, endangering the entire prospect of a compromise.
The solar industry said NV Energy, among other things, didn’t include 17.5 megawatts of power generated by rooftop panels in its calculations about when the cap would be hit, which skewed the cutoff date by several months.
Now, the cap will be hit by the middle of August not next year like NV Energy had said during the legislative session.
“For companies like SunRun and SolarCity, they’re not sure they’re going to be able put in new installations, add new customers,” Roerink explained.
However, NV Energy’s Kevin Geraghty told KNPR’s State of Nevada that net metering will continue, “It just won’t continue in the fashion that forced NV Energy to pay for above market prices.”
Geraghty said the price the utility pays for excess power from rooftop solar is about 12 cents per megawatt hour compared with the rate for large-scale solar plants which is about 4 cents.
Geraghty said the deadline for the outline of the tariff is due July 31 and that is when the company will release it. He did say that the tariff will include charges for basic service, energy and demand.
Bryan Miller, president of the Alliance for Solar Choice, wants NV Energy to explain how it “magically lost 17.5 megawatts.”
He added, “It’s the reason, two weeks from now, thousands of solar employees are facing an uncertain future and we’re about to dramatically increase water usage at the last time we should be doing it.”
Miller asked that NV Energy release the information on the proposed tariff immediately so people looking at installing solar power panels would know the cost.
“It does no good to simple say they will accept something and people will have no idea what the value of it is,” he said.
Bryan Miller, president, Alliance for Solar Choice; Kyle Roerink, writer, Las Vegas Sun; Kevin Geraghty, vice president of energy supply, NV Energy