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Reid backs grandfathering in of existing rooftop solar customers

CARSON CITY — U.S. Sen. Harry Reid has told a state energy task force that he was pleased to see a recommendation to grandfather in existing Nevada rooftop solar customers under more favorable rates, but expressed disappointment that the panel has not proposed a way to restore the industry going forward.

In a June 2 letter to Angela Dykema, director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy and chairwoman of the New Energy Industry Task Force, Reid said: “The failure to advance a proposal for bringing rooftop solar back reinforces the belief that Nevada has a stodgy commitment to shielding Nevada’s energy utility from competition.”

“Left unchanged, the repercussions of this decision will continue to be a black mark on Nevada’s reputation and will imperil job creation and innovation in the Silver State,” he said. “The need for Nevada to get this policy correct is more pressing than ever.”

Reid said he will continue to work to help Nevada reap the benefits of clean energy.

“Realizing Nevada’s clean energy future is not a sure thing.” he said. “The opponents of clean energy have repeatedly sought to undermine policies like a properly valued net metering program that are essential to achieving that future.”

The task force recently voted to draft a bill for the 2017 legislative session to grandfather in existing rooftop solar customers under the more favorable rates prior to Jan. 1 of this year.

But the rooftop solar industry remains at a standstill in the state because of the new rates that took effect for solar customers starting Jan. 1.

In a separate development Tuesday, a pro-life, pro-clean energy religious group turned in 8,667 signatures to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office in the capitol in support of more favorable net metering rates for existing solar customers. Net metering allows rooftop solar customers to receive a credit for the excess energy they generate from their systems.

The Evangelical Environmental Network is organizing half a million pro-life Christians across the country to participate in its Pro-Life Clean Energy Campaign. In the past few weeks, more than 8,500 pro-life Christians in Nevada have already joined, calling for 100 percent clean electricity by 2030.

 

“It’s time to get serious about clean energy in Nevada,” said Alexei Laushkin, vice president of the network. “God has blessed Nevada with an abundance of pollution-free energy and it’s time we do more to take advantage of our God-given ingenuity. Nevada can play a leadership role in showing how energy is produced in the 21st century.”

The group is also part of the Nevada Bring Back Solar Alliance, which is collecting signatures to put a measure on the November general election ballot to restore net metering rates to levels in place prior to Jan. 1. The alliance plans to turn in its signatures on June 21 to being the ballot qualification process.

State officials plan to do a fresh study on whether rooftop solar is a net benefit for Nevada ratepayers.

Also on Tuesday, the Nevada Board of Examiners approved nearly $67,000 so a contractor can re-do a cost analysis published in 2014.

The report was cited by parties on both sides of the recent debate about whether to raise rates on customers who participate in net metering. It found that rooftop solar systems provide a net benefit of $36 million to the state’s ratepayer base, but that it could be a net burden if some market factors changed.

Officials with the Public Utilities Commission said Tuesday that the price of utility grade solar has dropped significantly since the last study, and a fresh analysis could inform regulators as they consider rate changes this summer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801

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