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Proposed NV Energy rate increase raises concern

Updated September 11, 2017 - 7:46 pm

CARSON CITY — Consumer advocates are concerned about a proposed rate filing from NV Energy because it would raise the fixed monthly service charge by 31 percent.

The request was added this month to a June rate filing with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission. The fixed monthly charge would increase for all residential non-solar customers from the $12.75 to $16.76.

“To be clear, NV Energy is asking for no additional revenue for its core operations,” the utility said in a statement. “As directed by a Public Utilities Commission of Nevada order issued last Friday, NV Energy is requesting in its general rate review filing to change how costs are allocated amongst different customers due to the implementation of new private solar generation policies enacted in the most recent legislative session.”

Sara Gersen, an attorney with EarthJustice, who represented Vote Solar in the net metering case, said the proposed hike would undermine all customers’ ability to control their bills.

Customers who invest in solar and low-income customers would disproportionately bear the brunt of the increased charge, she said.

“Even without another hike, NV Energy’s residential customers already pay among the highest fixed charges in the western region,” Gersen said.

A consumer session held in Las Vegas to allow for public comment on the proposed change was sparsely attended and only a few speakers addressed the hike in the fixed monthly charge.

Barry Gold, AARP Nevada’s government relations director, protested the new proposal because of its effect on people with limited incomes. He also said the notice requirement for the consumer session was inadequate because there was no information about the fixed charge increase in the notices sent to ratepayers.

He said AARP was “shocked and saddened” that the new filing proposes the increase, which will raise rates for many residential customers by 2 percent. The original filing proposed no increase, Gold said.

The PUC is considering another consumer session because of the notice concerns.

Nevada Power’s original triennial general rate review application had no proposed increases for its Southern Nevada residential customers for a three-year period beginning Jan. 1, 2018.

A higher fixed monthly charge will result in the 2 percent increase for some residential customers. The fixed charge increase would be offset by another charge on monthly bills, called the volumetric charge, which would decrease in the rate filing should it be approved.

The increase to the monthly fixed charge was added because a proposal filed in a separate case addressing the new rooftop solar net metering rates was rejected by state utility regulators. The PUC said the issue should be addressed in the rate case and so the request was added by NV Energy in a filing dated Sept. 5.

The Legislature in the 2017 session required rooftop solar customers to pay the same rates as other residential customers.

The three-member PUC would have to approve the proposed rate changes.

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

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