COMMENTARY: Don’t scapegoat solar power for NV Energy’s rate proposals

Updated September 25, 2017 - 2:54 pm

This June, Nevada lawmakers from both sides of the aisle overwhelmingly approved legislation to restore Nevadans’ right to rooftop solar. Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the bill in a Tesla warehouse, one of the dozens of local and national solar companies once again welcome to hire and invest in the Silver State.

The governor’s signature came a year and a half after power regulators eliminated net metering and delivered a devastating blow to thousands of solar workers, businesses and 30,000 rooftop solar customers.

Shortly after the bill was enacted, NV Energy proposed an exorbitant rate increase on all of its customers — solar owners or not. Power regulators swiftly and prudently rejected the proposal, recognizing that NV Energy was out of bounds.

Earlier this month, the monopoly utility was at it again, requesting large fixed-fee increases for all residential customers. Despite the arguments made in the Review-Journal’s Sept. 13 editorial, “Let the sunshine in,” the fees are unreasonable and will disproportionately impact low- and fixed-income residents, who cannot avoid these charges simply by conserving electricity use.

NV Energy is a business with shareholders and employees and has every right to make a profit for providing a service. But unlike most businesses, NV Energy is a state-regulated monopoly that makes government-authorized profits of 8 percent to 10 percent on everything it spends, far higher than most businesses earn.

The monopoly utility has over-earned every year since 2012, resulting in tens of millions in profit above the rate of return approved by the government last year alone. Yet the company is willing to stick customers with fixed or low incomes, apartment dwellers and savvy energy consumers with ever-increasing bills.

The majority of Nevadans support the right to access solar and clean energy. Study after study from across the country shows that solar energy not only means lower bills for customers, but in fact provides benefits to every other customer on the grid. Rooftop solar reduces the need for expensive new power plants, which all ratepayers fund, creates jobs installing solar panels, reduces pollution that cause asthma and other health problems and reduces dependence on expensive out-of-state fossil fuels.

NV Energy should not raise rates at the expense of its own customers while placing blame on families and businesses that invest in Nevada’s clean energy future.

Sondra Cosgrove is president of the League of Women Voters for Southern Nevada.

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