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After its decision to add fees and decrease credits for rooftop solar customers, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission met Thursday again.
This time it was to hear motions filed by the Alliance for Solar Choice and the Bureau of Consumer Protection asking the commission to put a hold on its order issued at the end of last month, which changed the rates for rooftop solar customers.
Heidi Kyser, staff writer for Nevada Public Radio’s Desert Companion magazine, went to the hearing. According to her, the tone was argumentative.
“This was really an argument between the PUC’s attorneys and these other attorneys,” she said, “And it was an argument. It was very contentious.”
Kyser said the combativeness wasn’t limited to the lawyers. Commissioner David Noble shouted a few times at the audience and the attorneys for the Alliance for Solar Choice and Bureau of Consumer Protection.
“He castigated them for talking over him and chairman of the PUC Paul Thomsen for what he called talking back and being disrespectful,” she said. “There was a lot of anger clearly on the part of the commission about this action.”
Although the public wasn’t allowed to speak, Kyser spoke to many of the people in the room, including one man who paid for a rooftop solar array for his home outright, instead of leasing it from a rooftop solar company like Sunrun or SolarCity.
According to Kyser, the man bought the system thinking he would always have the deal that he received back then, now that the deal has changed he and many other customers at the hearing blame Governor Brian Sandoval.
“He said to me, ‘I hold Gov. Sandoval accountable for this because he selected these commission members and they’re clearly anti-solar. So, he has to answer to voters like me.’” she said.
The big problem for many customers, Kyser said, is they feel they’ve been hit twice, because under the new rate structure their service costs, which all NV Energy customers pay, is going up, much more than the non-solar customer, but also the money they get from NV Energy for net metering, which is returning the excess power their solar array produces to the grid, is going down.
During the meeting, the PUC blamed the media for the discontent by customers. Kyser said part of the problem is that the new rate structure is extremely complicated and difficult to understand.
“The accusation that the commission was making is that the media has either failed to really explain it well or has explained it mostly from the point of view of the solar companies,” she said.
KNPR News invited a representative from NV Energy to be part of KNPR’s State of Nevada discussion on the new rate structure, but the company did not respond.
Since the PUC’s decision, both SolarCity and Sunrun have announced they are pulling out of the Las Vegas solar market.
(Editor's Note: Kyser misstated that the service charge of $17.90 for net metering customers and $12.75 for non-net metering customers is paid every year. It is monthly; it will go up every year for five years according to the new net metering rate structure. She apologizes for the error.)
Heidi Kyser, staff writer, Desert Companion magazine