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The Public Utilities Commission voted against a plan backed by Nevada’s solar industry during a meeting Wednesday.
The solar industry wanted to keep net metering, which is when rooftop solar customers get credit for giving extra energy produced by their solar panels back to NV Energy, going while the PUC worked out the issues surrounding it.
However, the commission said it didn’t have the authority to do what the industry requested.
"We are disappointed by the hearing,"
Bryan Miller, the president of the Alliance for Solar Choice, told KNPR's State of Nevada.
Miller said the ruling wasn't about the merits of the petition to keep net metering the same but was a procedural issue.
Currently, there is a cap on the amount of energy that can be sold back to NV Energy and that limit could be reached by the end of August.
During the legislative session, Gov. Brian Sandoval worked with both sides to craft a bill that turned the decision about the future of rooftop solar and the cap over to the PUC.
As required by that law, NV Energy submitted a 500 page report to commission on July 31, outlining the changes it wants to see to the industry.
Kevin Geraghty with NV Energy said the company is "pro-solar." He went on to say that the bill and the report don't stifle solar in Nevada.
“There is nothing about this bill that prevents any customer continuing to pick rooftop solar. We don’t look to limit it, cap it in any way, shape or form,” Geraghty said.
Miller was incredulous at Geraghty's comments.
“Kevin just said something amazing," Miller responded, "He said ‘NV Energy is pro-solar.’ In their proposal, their 500 page proposal, they admit, right up front, that people who go solar end up paying more for energy than before they actually had solar. Now, does that sound like the actions of a pro-solar company to you?”
Geraghty stood by the report, outlining the power company's contention that while people who install solar panels can save money on their NV Energy power bill, they may not be saving on energy overall, over time.
The two sides have been locked in a battle since the legislative session earlier this year.
NV Energy says it simple wants to make sure non-solar customers are not having to pay for solar customers use of the power infrastructure.
However, the solar industry says without net metering thousands of jobs will be lost and the growing industry will wither.
Miller told KNPR's State of Nevada that the industry is in "crisis."
“It’s a crisis because 6,000 jobs represents the entire last year employment growth of the whole state of Nevada," he said. "Imagine setting unemployment back an entire year. That’s what we’re on the verge of doing here.”
Geraghty does not believe those jobs are going away.
“Their ability to continue installing rooftop solar under this net metering proposal will continue," he said. "The crisis. The chaos. The emotion has been self-created by the solar industry and that’s the bottom line.”
Wednesday's hearing was certainly full of emotion. An estimated 600 solar industry workers gathered at the PUC hearing in Las Vegas and another 100 in Reno.
Las Vegas Sun reporter Kyle Roerink has covered the issue for months. He said the employees showing up at the meeting was the industry, "flexing some muscle and showing that there a lot of people in Nevada who are deeply tied to this financial."
At this point, the solar industry is not finished in Nevada. The PUC still must make a decision on the rules laid out by NV Energy's proposal.
Bryan Miller, president, Alliance for Solar Choice; Kyle Roerink, writer, Las Vegas Sun; Kevin Geraghty, vice president of energy supply, NV Energy
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