A committee that’s part of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s New Energy Industry Task Force recommended on Wednesday that homeowners with existing rooftop solar panels be returned to their old rate treatment for the next 25 years.
This so-called “grandfathering” decision allows those with solar in place before the end of last year to be credited at the retail rate for electricity they return to the grid, known as net metering. A controversial ruling by utility regulators had substantially cut that credit, driving away solar companies and idling workers.
The committee's decision must be approved by the full task force, which is expected. It would then be sent to Governor Sandoval and possibly be acted on by next year’s Legislature.
A statement from the Solar Energy Industry Association praised the decision, saying, “While we also hope that policy changes can be implemented to encourage future solar customers to invest in solar energy, and for the solar industry to invest in jobs in Nevada, this is a good first step.”
NV Energy reiterated its support for a grandfathered rate structure on KNPR's State of Nevada.
"We believe customers should be grandfathered," said Kevin Geraghty, senior vice president of energy supply. "We're glad to see it moving forward and getting that behind us because... there's just a lot of important energy issues in Nevada to be talking about."
He said there has been too much focus on rooftop solar and not on the bigger issues of Nevada's energy future.
"There's other ways that we can chart Nevada's energy future than just having a debate on grandfathered rooftop solar systems," he said.
Geraghty said the net metering model used by rooftop solar is a subsidy and rooftop solar is not as competitive an energy source as it once was. He said going forward a new way of using rooftop solar needs to be worked out. For example, pooling a group of rooftop solar systems together and being able to control them for the benefit of the whole grid.
Besides the technical aspects of a plan like that needing to be worked out, financial issues would also need to be addressed.
"That's the program that needs to be created," he said, "That the understanding that a customer may not ever be able to enjoy a retail rate reimbursement but is there another mechanism."
He said the energy future of Nevada needs to be beneficial for everyone.
Jesse Murray is the director of renewable energy programs at NV Energy. He said it is time for the industry to start looking forward.
"We need to move to the next step," he said, "I think it's time that the industry start looking forward and finding what that next model looks like for private rooftop solar."
Both men agree that the most efficient way to use solar is through large-scale solar plants, not small rooftop units.
Murray disputed the idea that NV Energy is against rooftop solar because it wants the industry for itself.
"The notion that the utility only wants large-scale solar I think is false because we don't - on the vast majority of those projects - we don't own them," he said.
"What we're really focused on is delivering renewable, carbon-free energy to our customers at the best price point," Geraghty said.
Kevin Geraghty, senior vice president of energy supply, NV Energy; Jesse Murray, director of renewable energy programs, NV Energy
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