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What Happened to Solar in Nevada?

Nevada with all that sunshine seems to be the first choice of the perfect United State to embrace solar and clean energy.

Unfortunately we live in a world where logic and rational thought, particularly when it pertains to climate change and renewable, clean energy.

In the beginning it looked like a beautiful opportunity:

“About a year ago, the government encouraged people to go solar, saying it was a priority for the state to increase the use of renewable energy,” Miller said. “They created an incentive to bait people. That’s what jumpstarted the market. Then they switched the rules in the middle of the game.”

“Rooftop solar companies have sternly rebuked [Governor] Sandoval, noting that he courted their businesses and incentivized the industry in what they are now calling a bait-and-switch.”   Source: The Guardian, D Hernandez, Jan 13, 2016

Bobby Hollis, a Las Vegas rooftop solar customer, said the retroactive change in the rules will mean new costs to those who installed systems under the old rules.

“While many states are making changes, it is unheard of to change the law retroactively to customers who paid a premium to do what they thought was good for the state,” he said in an email. “This is huge and horribly offensive to the entire rule of law.”

The draft order could adopt the following changes:

  • Separate ratepayer classes for all small commercial and residential net metering customers to ensure no cost shift to other ratepayers.
  • Excess energy produced through net metering systems will be compensated at the wholesale market rate.
  • An increase to the fixed charge and corresponding decrease to the volumetric commodity charge to reduce inequities among net metering customers.
  • An optional time-of-use pricing option to allow net metering customers to take advantage of energy generation that occurs during peak and off-peak demand periods.
  • Incremental implementation of new rates over four years.

NV Energy argues the current policy requires nonsolar ratepayers to subsidize rooftop solar customers and needs to reflect the intent of the 2015 Legislature.

Source: Las Vegas Review – Journal, Dec 21, 2015

These sorts of politics give uninformed consumers that solar users are “free loaders” or causing an undue burden on them, the traditional energy users.

What about subsidies for oil & gas companies?

The oil industry’s lobbyists like to argue that its array of tax write-offs (which allow companies to deduct everything from drilling costs to the declining value of their wells) aren’t any different than other deductions for less publicly reviled companies. Cutting them will discourage new exploration and put jobs at risk, they claim.
Yet, some of the breaks are anachronisms that date back almost to the days of John D. Rockefeller. And in a world of permanently high crude prices, there’s very little rationale for subsidizing the bottom lines of companies like ExxonMobil and BP.Make no mistake, either: Those profits are perfectly healthy. Between drilling and refining, Exxon’s U.S. operations alone earned $7.5 billion after taxes in 2012. California-based Occidental Petroleum Corporation, one of the so-called “independent” oil companies and the top oil driller in Texas, raked in $7.1 billion via its oil and gas division.

Source: The Atlantic, D Weissmann, March 2013

Republicans definitely don’t want that.  See:

Is it even true that non-solar users are paying the price?

An independent study commissioned by the state legislature in 2013 concluded, however, that solar users created a $36m net benefit for traditional customers, a finding NV Energy dismissed as reliant on outdated solar pricing data.  Source: ditto Guardian article cited above.

Even Hillary weighed in on the topic:

In a recent interview with the Las Vegas Sun, the Democratic front-runner called for more renewable energy, saying regulators should not be changing the rules retroactively.

“I know there will be a hearing about this decision in the next few days. I think it’s important we give investors certainty and we give consumers choice. We’re never going to transition to clean renewable energy if we don’t do that.

“Just look at the jobs that are being created. Nationwide, 174,000 jobs in the last few years. Here in Nevada, 5,900 jobs — 3,900 just last year. This is a win-win to move us away from fossil fuels, to diversify the grid, to give homeowners a chance to be empowered to do something about their own energy usage and put people to work.

“I hope there is a way that this state can figure out a path forward. Every state is somewhat different. Every state has different rules and regulations and investment climates, but I’m absolutely convinced we’re going to have to do more solar, more wind and more renewables if we’re going to have the kind of future we should.

“I don’t know all of the public utility rules in Nevada, but certainly people who acted in good faith should be given the benefit of that moving forward. I don’t think any change in rules should penalize people who were permitted and encouraged to do what folks have done. They shouldn’t see that investment absolutely destroyed. I’m hoping that there can be a sensible recognition of the benefits that this provides and the investments that people have already made.”

Source: Clean Technica, Jan 14, 2016

And she’s not the only one:

But what happens in Nevada, apparently, doesn’t really end up staying in Nevada. After Harry Reid, a Nevada Senator, questioned the decision’s legality, national voices began to take up the cause as well. Hillary Clinton spoke out against the decision. Bernie Sanders — running a strong challenge to Hillary in this year’s democratic nomination campaign — noted that the PUC board’s decision was “the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” Martin O’Malley, also a democratic presidential candidate, implied that the decision was an intentional ‘sabotage’ of the solar energy industry.

PUCN has since offered to ‘grandfather’ in existing solar users. But the war to stop rooftop solar growth by this fossil fuel powered utility appears to have jumped back into Arizona where another large utility is seeking to impose similar exorbitant fees.

Political opportunities a motive?

So if it was creating jobs, clean energy, and independently refuted that it was costing others – what’s really behind it? 

Sandoval, 50, had long been touted by Republicans as a candidate to watch. After serving in the state Legislature, he was elected Nevada’s first Latino attorney general. President George W. Bush showcased Sandoval at the 2004 Republican National Convention, then appointed him to the federal bench.  Source:

Maybe this lends additional clues:

26 Red States Appeal Supreme Court to Rule on Clean Power Plan

As if Nevada’s war against rooftop solar industry within its own state wasn’t bad enough, a group of 26 states currently governed by fossil fuel industry funded republicans are now submitting a Supreme Court challenge to Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The group has re-stated the now typical and jaded republican claim that the EPA doesn’t retain the legal authority to regulate carbon emissions. The new claim is predicated on the statement that EPA will force fossil fuels out of business, stating that the federal government does not retain the authority to effectively ban the use of a particular set of fuels. Source:

What do you think?

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