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Millions flowing into fight over Nevadan Net metering ballot proposal

CARSON CITY — Big money is flowing into the fight over a potential November ballot measure that could restore Nevada’s more favorable net metering rates for current and future rooftop solar residential customers.

Nevada Power, which is part of NV Energy, has contributed more than $1.4 million to Citizens for Solar and Energy Fairness, a political action committee formed to fight the referendum filed by the group Bring Back Solar Alliance.

There are a handful of contributions from others as well, most notably a $100,000 donation from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 based in Vacaville, Calif., bringing total donations to $1.5 million.

The solar alliance turned in 115,000 signatures on Tuesday to qualify a measure for the November ballot that would overrule the new, less favorable net metering rate class established by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission.

The No Solar Tax political action committee, fighting for the referendum, has been funded to the tune of nearly $2.5 million, all from the rooftop solar company SolarCity.

The signatures turned in by the group were more than twice what is needed to qualify it for the November general election ballot. The signatures are now being verified.

But first the solar coalition has to win its appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court from a Carson City District Court ruling that found the proposal did not qualify as a referendum.

The case has not yet been scheduled for a hearing by the Supreme Court.

The pro-solar group decided to collect signatures for the referendum and challenge the lower court ruling in the meantime.

The referendum would restore Nevada’s net metering program to more favorable rates for rooftop solar customers if it wins a place on the ballot and voters approve.

The Nevada Public Utilities Commission earlier this year adopted a new rate class for rooftop solar customers who earn credits for the excess electricity their panels generate. The new, less generous rates have brought the rooftop solar industry in Nevada to a standstill.

Gov. Brian Sandoval had been approached by NV Energy and SolarCity as part of an effort to reach an agreement on the net metering issue that would have precluded the filing of the signatures for the referendum. The agreement could have provided immediate relief to existing rooftop solar customers by grandfathering them in under the original, more favorable rate structure.

But Mari St. Martin, spokeswoman for Sandoval, said the effort failed when SolarCity and another solar company, Sunrun, opted to proceed with the ballot measure instead.

“Unfortunately, SolarCity and Sunrun changed course and chose to pursue an expensive ballot measure and further litigation which provides no relief to their customers or certainty to the solar marketplace,” she said in a statement. “The Governor, who has always been supportive of the solar industry, is disappointed that the solar companies backed out of the negotiations and failed to reach an accord that would have benefited all customers by fixing the grandfathering issue and provided certainty to the rooftop solar industry and ratepayers.”

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

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