Nevada Supreme Court to decide whether net metering issue will make Nov. 8 ballot

CARSON CITY — Voters may soon get to decide whether the sun will shine again for the rooftop solar industry in Nevada.

But first rooftop solar advocates must convince the Nevada Supreme Court that a referendum to restore net metering to the more economically viable rate structure in place in 2015 has a legal right to a spot on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on that question Friday and will likely rule shortly thereafter.

If the court rules in favor of the measure — backed by the Bring Back Solar Alliance and funded by the rooftop solar company SolarCity — voters, not state utility regulators or the Legislature, will decide how net metering should continue to evolve in Nevada.

“We just want the people of Nevada to have a say on this issue, and we hope they’ll be given that chance,” said Chandler Sherman, the deputy campaign manager for the Bring Back Solar Alliance who is on loan from SolarCity. “A favorable ruling from the Supreme Court would just open a pathway to let voters weigh in on an issue that the public has been very engaged in.”


The issue before the Supreme Court is arcane but important.

The measure’s backers put it on the ballot as a referendum on legislation passed by state lawmakers in 2015. Senate Bill 374 asked the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to perform a cost of service study to determine whether regular ratepayers of NV Energy, doing business as Nevada Power in Southern Nevada, were subsidizing rooftop solar customers.

The PUC performed that review and determined there was a subsidy of $16 million a year. The PUC then adopted a new rate class that reduced the credit for the excess electricity generated by rooftop solar customers. The monthly fixed service charge was also increased. The rate changes took effect Jan. 1 and are being phased in over 12 years.

Rooftop solar advocates cite recent studies that show there is no such subsidy. Rather, rooftop solar provides benefits to all utility customers, according to two reports — one from the Brookings Institution and one from SolarCity and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The controversial decision, which generated huge turnouts at the PUC hearings, has effectively brought rooftop solar to a dead stop in Nevada. Major companies, including SolarCity and Sunrun, left the state; hundreds of jobs disappeared.

The referendum seeks to repeal sections of the bill that led to the new rate class decision by the PUC.

But Nevada Power, which has contributed more than $1.4 million to Citizens for Solar and Energy Fairness, a political action committee formed to fight the referendum, challenged the measure’s validity in Carson City District Court.

District Judge James Russell determined that the rooftop solar group should have filed an initiative petition instead. An initiative is used to ask voters to approve a new law rather than weigh in on an existing one.

The difference is that the referendum, if approved, would take effect immediately and couldn’t be changed by lawmakers for three years.

An initiative petition would have to first go to the Legislature in 2017. If lawmakers rejected the proposal, it would go to voters in 2018, delaying by years any effort to restore the original net metering rates.

A recent Supreme Court decision in another case involving another referendum, this one on the new commerce tax approved by the 2015 Legislature, would appear to lend support for the pro-solar group’s appeal.

The commerce tax referendum didn’t proceed because of unrelated issues, but the court rejected a challenge that it was not a proper referendum. The court said that the “Nevada Constitution requires no particular form for a referendum petition, except that it include the full text of the proposed measure … ”


If the court upholds the measure as a referendum, those on both sides of the question will have a lot of work to do to educate voters on what to do in the voting booth.

If voters want to restore net metering and undo the higher rates for rooftop solar customers, they need to vote no on Question 5.

Essentially, a “no” vote would invalidate the new rates approved by the PUC. Net metering would be able to proceed based on prior rates, without any artificial cap on participation.

Nevada voters who don’t want the original net metering rates restored, will need to vote yes on Question 5 to uphold what the PUC did in 2015.

Referendums are rare in Nevada. The last time the referendum process was used was in 1990, to maintain Nevada’s current laws regarding abortion. The measure passed.


Nevada had the third-largest number of solar jobs among all states in 2015 and the most solar jobs per capita, a report released earlier this year by the national group the Solar Foundation shows.

Nevada had 8,764 solar jobs in 2015, with the vast majority, 8,285 jobs, in solar installation, the report said.

But no more.

About 30,000 homeowners and small businesses signed up for net metering through 2015 when the tax incentives and credits made financial sense to do so. But with the new rates in 2016, only a handful of applications have been received to install systems.

NV Energy reported 1,368 applications in December, but only 69 in January. As of June, the number had dwindled to 18.

There is an effort underway to ask the Legislature next year to “grandfather” the rooftop solar customers who installed systems before this year in under the original, more favorable rates.

Gov. Brian Sandoval supports the grandfathering proposal, as does NV Energy and the solar industry. The PUC opted not to grandfather in the original net metering customers.

This proposed legislation would become moot if the referendum ends up on the ballot and is approved by voters.

The new net metering rates in Southern Nevada reduced the credit per kilowatt hour from about 11 cents to 9 cents; the credit would end up at just over 2 cents by 2028. The monthly fixed charge for solar customers also increased from $12.75 to $17.90 a month and eventually will reach $38.51 on Jan. 1, 2028.

While supporting the grandfathering proposal, the Bring Back Solar Alliance has noted that any such action would do nothing to restore the rooftop solar industry in Nevada going forward.

That is why the group decided to pursue the referendum. More than twice the number of signatures needed were collected to put it on the ballot.

The No Solar Tax political action committee, fighting for the referendum, has received nearly $2.5 million in funding, all from SolarCity.

Contact Sean Whaley at or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

Small businesses struggle to find qualified candidates
A 2018 survey found that over two-thirds of small businesses in Nevada find it somewhat to very difficult to recruit qualified candidates. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nevada secretary of state website offers little protection against fraudulent business filings
Property developer Andy Pham tells how control of his business was easily seized by another person using the secretary of state website.
Caesars may be going solo in its marijuana policy
Several Southern Nevada casino companies aren’t following Caesars Entertainment’s lead on marijuana testing.
How much is the Lucky Dragon worth?
Less than a year-and-a-half after it opened, the Lucky Dragon was in bankruptcy.
Gyms and discount stores take over empty retail spaces
Grocery stores used to draw people to shopping centers. But many large retail spaces have been vacant since 2008. Discount stores like goodwill and gyms like EOS Fitness are filling those empty spaces, and helping to draw shoppers back in. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Funding source of Las Vegas stadium for the Raiders is sound, expert says
The stadium is funded in part by $750 million of room taxes, the biggest such tax subsidy ever for a professional sports stadium. Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and The Lincy Institute at UNLV, says that is a good use of public funds. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas needs light rail, expert says
Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute said he is afraid of a "congestion mobility crisis." Las Vegas needs a light rail system, he said, to accommodate the city's growing number of attractions. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three takeaways from Wynn Resorts' Earnings Call
Matt Maddox came out swinging in his first earnings conference call as Wynn Resorts chief executive officer, boasting of record Las Vegas quarterly revenues and applicants lining up for work.
Star Wars VR Comes to Las Vegas
Sneak peak at the new "Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire" VR experience at the Grand Canal Shoppes.
Elaine Wynn continues her fight to change Wynn Resorts board
Elaine Wynn, the largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts Ltd., is seeking to kick a friend of her ex-husband Steve Wynn off the company’s board of directors. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zillow is getting into house flipping in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Review-Journal real estate reporter Eli Segall says flipping houses has waned in popularity after the housing bubble burst.
Ellis Island Buys Mt. Charleston Lodge
Ellis Island, which operates a casino, brewery and hotel just off the Strip, purchased the Mt. Charleston Lodge in early April.
Casinos to be penalized for allowing drug-impaired customers to gamble
Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo talks about an amendment making casinos subject to the same disciplinary standards of preventing people to gamble if impaired by drugs as they are for letting them play while intoxicated by alcohol.
Terrible Herbst to open large travel center in Southern Nevada
The 50,000-square-foot commercial travel center will include 96 fuel pumps and the third White Castle restaurant in Southern Nevada. Wade Tyler Millward reports.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Hooters owner talks about room upgrades at his hotel-casino
George Ruff, founder and senior principal of Trinity Hotel Investors L.L.C., owner of Hooters Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, talks about recent room upgrades at the hotel. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Passengers Discuss Allegiant Air
Allegiant Air passengers voice their views on the airline at McCarran International Airport on April 16, 2018. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
Trump Slams Amazon for Not Paying Enough in Taxes
Trump Slams Amazon for Not Paying Enough in Taxes Trump tweeted his concerns about the company on Thursday. This isn't the first time Trump commented on the issues via Twitter. August 2017 December 2017 Amazon did hold back on paying state taxes in 1995, but the company has been routinely collecting state sales taxes since then. In 2016, the company's report from the Securities and Exchange Commission confirmed it paid $412 million in taxes.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
eyecandylab CEO shows augmented reality during NAB
Robin Sho Moser, CEO and co-founder of eyecandylab gives an augmented reality demonstration at his booth during the National Association of Broadcaster Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Trends in access to capital for local black business owners
Denette Braud, owner of Braud’s Funnel Cake Cafe, talks about what owning her own business means to her.
Sir Richard Branson announces purchase of Hard Rock Hotel
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has acquired the Hard Rock Hotel with partners and plans to turn it into a Virgin-branded property by the end of 2019.
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Adobe unveils #HackTheBracket application for March Madness
Adobe unveiled their #HackTheBracket application at the Adobe Summit trade show at Sands Expo. People can use data from Adobe Analytics to make their bracket for March Madness. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Adidas Signs Yankees' Star Aaron Judge
Adidas Signs New York Yankees Star Aaron Judge The slugger is set to don a new set of stripes this season after signing with the apparel company. Aaron Judge Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal includes branding on his batting gloves and wristbands. Judge, the AL's reigning Rookie of the Year, was previously under contract with Under Armour since 2014. Judge won the American League Rookie of the Year award last season after setting an MLB record for most homers in a rookie season (52).
Esports athletes are sponsored, too
Meet Red Bull-sponsored professional esports player Daryl S. Lewis, better known by his in-game name Snake Eyez. Nicole Raz Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Bettor Investments turned into a bad bet
Bettor Investments formerly operated a Nevada-licensed entity betting operation. The company promised “conservative growth, profits and stability for our investors.” Matt Stuart, who ran the fund, shut it down in late 2016 and never made good on an agreement with shareholders.
Starbucks Will Give You $10 Million for a Better Cup Design
Starbucks Will Give You $10 Million for a Better Cup Design Get your thinking caps on because the company is looking for a new cup that's easier to recycle. The $10 million grant challenge sees Starbucks partnering with investor group Closed Loop Partners for the project. According to CNN Money, Aside from the new cup design challenge, Starbucks stated it will test a cup with an inner lining made from plant fibers to prevent hot liquid from leaking. Will you join the challenge for #Bettercups?
Las Vegas bartenders who worked the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival question what they were paid
Reneé Black, left, and her husband Griffin Black talk to the Review-Journal at their home in Las Vegas, Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Reneé was a bartender at Route 91, and Griffin was a bar back. They were hired as independent contractors, but received forms months later indicating they were employees. They also were never paid their last day of tips. Nicole Raz/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like