The decision last year by state utility regulators to reduce the price the owners of rooftop solar systems are paid for electricity returned to the grid, which is known as net metering, led to an uproar from homeowners and an exodus of solar companies, costing many people their jobs.
Regulators also increased service charges for solar customers to $17.90 a month, compared to non-solar customers which pay $12.75 a month.
Following the controversial decision by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, Gov. Brian Sandoval reconvened the New Energy Industry Task Force to seek “the best plan for Nevada’s renewable and sustainable clean energy future.”
State Sen. Patricia Spearman, D-NV is on the committee. She told KNPR's State of Nevada she rejects the idea "that it is an either-or" situation, meaning either NV Energy will win and rooftop solar will lose or vice versa.
“What I’m hoping will happen as a result of this is during the next legislative session we will be able to develop policy, procedures and other norms… that will allow us to have the peaceful co-existence of renewables as well as incumbent energy sources,” Spearman said.
She said it is important that Nevada addresses both the rate and regulatory structure of energy in the state not only to grow renewable energy sources but to deal with the future of energy.
Spearman also said there are a lot of different types of renewable energy sources in Nevada and those need to be included in an energy strategy for the 21st Century.
“Whatever we come up with, it is my hope that it will have the elasticity, if you will, to accommodate all of the resources of renewable energy that we have in the state, not just one,” she said.
Assemblyman James Oscarson R-District 36 is also on the committee and he agreed. He believes Nevada can be a leader in solar energy.
“There has to be a cohesive relationship with everybody engaged to make this happen” he said, “Nevada has been poised for a long time to be a leader in these energies and these technologies. We need to continue to move forward with that.”
The committee will have two big issues to deal with when it moves forward. First is the issue of infrastructure costs.
Krysti Shallenberger is a reporter who covers the solar industry. She said the dispute is a common one.
"The biggest issue right now is whether or not [solar power users] reduced bill fairly compensates the utility for their use of the grid during off-peak hours and the utilities say ‘No, it doesn’t. It actually puts that burden on non-rooftop solar users,’’ she said.
NV Energy has long said rooftop solar customers don’t pay into the infrastructure and grid maintenance costs, which is why the PUC allowed service rates to increase for rooftop solar customers.
The second is the issue of grandfathering in customers who bought into rooftop solar believing they would have that same rate structure going forward. Many rooftop solar customers felt they had suffered a ‘bait and switch’ when the PUC changed the net metering rules.
A subcommittee of the task force has recommended grandfathering lower rates for those existing owners of rooftop solar systems through 2035, years beyond what regulators originally decided.
While these questions still need to be decided, State Sen. Spearman said all sides need to have a wider view of energy in the state.
“We have to come together and we’ve got to use all of the resources that we have to have this tough discussion, and understand on the other side of it, things will probably look very different than they do today.”
(Editor's Note: KNPR's State of Nevada invited NV Energy to be part of the discussion but the company declined to send a representative, citing a scheduling conflict. )
From Desert Companion: Bringing Back Solar --- But How?
Patricia Spearman, state senator, James Oscarson, assemblyman; Krysti Shallenberger, solar industry reporter
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