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Rooftop-solar official: NV Energy proposal spells death of industry


CARSON CITY — A solar company official representing an alliance of rooftop solar firms said a filing Friday by NV Energy to create a new rate class for Nevadans who install the systems will mean the death of the industry in Nevada along with its 6,000 jobs.

Bryan Miller, vice president of public policy and power markets for the rooftop solar company Sunrun Inc. and part of the Alliance for Solar Choice, called on Gov. Brian Sandoval to take a leadership role on the issue and maintain the existing net metering program until the NV Energy proposal can be thoroughly vetted by state regulators and the public.

The three members of the Public Utilities Commission are appointees of Sandoval.

"This is the most extreme anti-solar proposal anywhere in the country," Miller said. "It would completely eliminate the solar market."

Miller called the 500-page filing, with nine different tariffs, Byzantine and said potential rooftop solar customers would not be able to figure out how much they would pay for electricity under the proposal if it is adopted by the PUC.

By the utility's own admission in the filing, the cost of installing a rooftop solar system would likely result in customers paying more for energy than those who do not install such systems, he said.

NV Energy filed the proposed new rate on Friday and asked the PUC to adopt it by Sept. 15. It would create the new tariffs for the utility's southern and northern companies, including Nevada Power in Southern Nevada. Customers who installed rooftop solar under the current net metering program would not be affected by the new rate.

But the existing net metering program is about to hit is 235 megawatt cap, and the NV Energy proposal is meant to become the new policy for future net metering customers.

The Nevada Legislature rejected an increase in the cap and instead directed the PUC to consider and adopt a new net metering policy.

Miller said the PUC should grant the rooftop solar industry's petition filed last month and continue the existing net metering program, which does generate savings to rooftop solar customers. The PUC is expected to rule on the petition this month. Net metering is a program where residents who install rooftop solar can receive a credit from the utility company for any excess energy generated.

Miller said one utility in Arizona, the Salt River Project, adopted a similar proposal to that filed by NV Energy, which includes a "demand" charge the company says is meant to cover the cost of infrastructure and new generation capacity that all of its customers rely upon. But 95 percent of the rooftop solar market disappeared in the Salt River Project when the policy was adopted, he said.

He also disputed the comment that a new rooftop solar company from Utah plans to open offices in Nevada, saying Vivint Solar of Utah no longer has plans to come to the state.

As of mid-July there were a total of 9,571 total net metering customers in Nevada, with 7,990 located in Southern Nevada.

Miller said the PUC should not rush into approval of the NV Energy proposal, but instead give the public a chance to review and comment on it. The PUC has until Dec. 31 to take action on the proposal, but the existing cap on net metering could be reached by Sept. 1.

"The next move is up to Governor Sandoval," he said. "He is accountable for what happens. It is time for leadership."

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801