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Compromise Reached For Rooftop Solar

Solar panels

A new agreement could finally end the empass between NV Energy and supporters of rooftop solar.

For 85 percent of the year, the sun shines in Las Vegas.

Some 2,000 homeowners now produce electricity for their homes with rooftop solar panels.

And a new agreement making its way through the Legislature ends a months long fight over solar and promises to ensure more homeowners will be able to install the technology. 

The fight has been centered around net metering, which is the practice of selling excess power from rooftop solar panels back to NV Energy.

A cap of 3 percent limited the amount of power that could be sold back to the grid. Solar power supporters wanted the cap raised to 10 percent. 

However, the energy company said the practice amounted to a subsidy from non-solar customers to solar customers.

Supporters of rooftop solar argued that without net metering there would not be an incentive for people to lease the technology, putting 6,000 solar jobs at risk. 

Kyle Roerink has been covering the solar battle in Carson City for the Las Vegas Sun. He told KNPR's State of Nevada that the agreement gives both the rooftop solar industry and NV Energy a little bit of what they wanted.

"Essentially, they gave some wiggle room to the solar industry to be able to operate without hitting this cap that everyone has been talking about for the rest of the year," he said.

The agreement allows for more net metering, but it also pushes a permanent decision onto the Public Utilities Commission. The PUC must decide the net metering question before December or the practice will be allowed to continue unfettered, Roerink said.

For NV Energy's part in the compromise, the company will be able to do its own study of rooftop solar. An independent study commissioned by the PUC last year said rooftop solar does not hurt non-solar customers or the overall infrastructure. NV Energy disputes how the study was conducted and its results. 

Roerink said everyone involved in the battle are crediting Gov. Brian Sandoval with crafting the compromise. A much different version of the bill was moving through the Legislature until the governor brought everyone to the table.

"I think he stepped in because this deal gives everybody a little bit of something they want but not every thing they want," Roerink said.

Kyle Roerink, reporter, Las Vegas Sun

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.