Battles over net metering policies in Nevada have ramped up since December, when state regulators revoked retail rate incentives for solar customers and tacked on exorbitant fees.
Now, after months of debate, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved a new agreement that brings back favorable rates for solar power system owners. While this is great news for residential and commercial solar customers, many industry experts believe the ruling doesn’t go far enough to protect solar energy’s future in Nevada.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of last year’s net energy metering ruling was the lack of a grandfather clause to keep higher retail rates in place for existing solar customers. The PUC applied the new fees and lower reimbursement rates to everyone, without notice.
A Nevada district court found this to be a violation of the rights of photovoltaic system owners, as the promise of retail rate net energy metering was a large factor in their decision to adopt solar energy. Consequently, the PUC will grandfather eligible customers under the previous rates.
Roughly 32,000 solar customers in Nevada will have their full retail net energy metering rates restored.
The new ruling is a step in the right direction for the solar industry in Nevada. It will hopefully also discourage other states from trying to apply unfair rate changes to photovoltaic system owners.
The problem now is that the PUC’s net metering reform does not apply to anyone who hasn’t already made the switch to photovoltaic power. Customers who installed their solar arrays after Dec. 31, 2015, and those interested in installing systems in the future must do so under the revised rate and fee structure.
The recent ruling provides reason to celebrate. However, this alone will not resolve all the challenges that the photovoltaic industry and its customers face in Nevada. To support solar industry growth, further revisions to state policies will be necessary.
The good news is that those revisions appear to be in process.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has convened a New Energy Task Force to work toward a new plan. A draft proposal has recently been approved, calling for the reinstatement of full, retail-rate, net energy metering for new photovoltaic customers, at least until state regulators can complete a comprehensive value-of-solar analysis.
As part of the plan, solar customers will have a $25 minimum bill. This is intended to help offset utility costs, and it will essentially return Nevada’s net energy metering policy almost back to where it was before last December’s change.
Two of the PUC commissioners who voted to end net metering last year have also been replaced. So although more reform is necessary, the future of solar power in Nevada is beginning to look much brighter.
Intermountain Wind & Solar monitors industry news to keep customers in Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming up to date on important developments. Give us a call today for more information on solar incentives and net metering policies in your area.
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