Nevada agency seeks to block new rates for rooftop-solar customers


CARSON CITY — The Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection on Thursday filed a motion to halt the implementation of a new net metering rate for rooftop-solar customers while petitions seeking reconsideration or clarification of the controversial decision can be filed.

The petition filed with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission says that the order approved Tuesday appears to conflict with the desire of Gov. Brian Sandoval to allow the rooftop-solar industry to continue to create jobs while balancing the interests of nonsolar ratepayers.

"Major companies in the solar industry have stated the order could result in the loss of jobs numbering in the thousands," the petition signed by Consumer Advocate Eric Witkoski, says. "Such an outcome is not consistent with the Governor's stated objectives of SB374 or the governor's initiatives and focus to increase jobs and employment for Nevada residents."

Senate Bill 374 is the measure approved by the 2015 Legislature directing the PUC to craft a new rate for net metering customers of NV Energy. Net metering allows those with rooftop systems to receive a credit for the excess energy they generate.

The new tariff approved by the PUC will increase the monthly fixed charge solar customers will have to pay and will reduce the credit received for each kilowatt hour of excess energy generated to wholesale rates. The new rate structure will take effect Jan. 1 and will apply to rooftop-solar customers regardless when their systems were installed.

Following the decision, the rooftop-solar company SolarCity said it will no longer sell or install rooftop-solar systems in Nevada. The Alliance for Solar Choice said it will challenge the new rates in court.

The application of the new rates to existing customers is particularly troubling, according to the filing.

Existing net metering customers "understandably feel a bit confused, frustrated and aggrieved to find out their rates related to net metering will change January 1, 2016," the filing says.

"Further, the Commission's Order does not recognize or acknowledge there could be significant value of a robust roof-top solar program that could negate the need for a $900 million investment (in a) natural gas plant in the near future; a plant that would likely only be needed for a few months out of the year," the filing says.

Postponement of the implementation of the new rooftop-solar rates would allow the PUC additional time to consider the issues raised, obtain clarification on some aspects of the order and ensure that the implementation of the tariffs more closely aligns with the law as well as the stated objectives of the governor, the petition says.

The Bureau of Consumer Protection is asking that responses to its petition be filed by Tuesday.

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