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Millions raised on both sides of rooftop solar tax initiative referendum

CARSON CITY — Tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to state lawmakers made by two companies at odds over the development of rooftop solar in Nevada suggest the issue will see another hard fought battle in the 2017 Legislature.

Millions more have been raised and spent by SolarCity and NV Energy on an initiative referendum sought by the rooftop solar company to ask voters in November to restore Nevada’s more favorable net metering rates.

SolarCity has contributed more than $2 million to the No Solar Tax political action committee, which is trying to collect 55,234 signatures needed from registered Nevada voters by June 21 to put the net metering issue before the voters. The ballot referendum is being challenged in the Nevada Supreme Court, however.

Of that total, nearly $500,000 is from in-kind contributions. The PAC has spent about $1.5 million.

On the other side, NV Energy and the Citizens for Solar and Energy Fairness PAC have collected more than $1 million to fight the measure, mostly through an ongoing television ad campaign. Of the total, $950,000 has come from Nevada Power, doing business as NV Energy. The PAC has spent more than $1 million.

But incumbent state lawmakers, candidates, Gov. Brian Sandoval and various parties and political action committees should not feel left out by the largess lavished on the referendum fight.

Reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office show SolarCity has contributed nearly $70,000 to 15 incumbent legislators in the first reporting period that began Jan. 1 and ended May 20.

NV Energy has far exceeded that total, however, donating more than $200,000 to 43 legislative incumbents and candidates and other groups, including $5,000 to the New Nevada PAC formed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, in this reporting period. Also in the total is $50,000 to the Nevada State Democratic Party, $25,000 in March 2015 reported in an annual filing in January of this year, and another $25,000 in the first report this year.

Other recipients of contributions from the utility include the NV Majority PAC formed by state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, to the tune of $5,000, and $11,000 to GOP Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson’s Growth & Opportunity PAC.

SolarCity and NV Energy fought over net metering in the 2015 session, with state lawmakers ultimately sending the issue to state regulators.

The Public Utilities Commission approved a new tariff beginning Jan. 1 that has virtually eliminated the rooftop solar industry in Nevada

Sandoval also reauthorized a panel of experts to formulate proposals on a number of energy issues, including potential changes to net metering that could go to the Legislature in 2017. The New Energy Industry Task Force meets again Thursday.

One decision before the panel is a recommendation to ask the Legislature next year to grandfather in original rooftop solar customers under the original net metering rates, which were financially more favorable than the new tariff.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801

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