Solar installers and the 17,000 customers who already own or lease photovoltaic (PV) arrays were furious when state regulators decided to apply new net-metering rules to both new and existing systems. Now, NV Energy, the utility on the winning side of that unpopular decision, wants a do-over.
The state’s Public Utilities Commission has set a hearing date of February 8 to consider evidence on the utility’s request to grandfather existing solar customers and allow them to keep the original terms of their agreements for as long as 20 years.
“This grandfathering proposal is being offered in recognition of NV Energy’s desire to treat all customers, including those who had previously made a decision to install rooftop solar, fairly,” NV Energy CEO Paul Caudill said in a news release..
The request comes only a few weeks after regulators approved a plan to triple monthly service charges for solar customers, from $12.75 to $38.51 per month, while gradually lowering the reimbursement rate for electricity from the retail to the wholesale rate over a period of four years.
While the rate changes were bad enough, most galling was the lack of a grandfather clause protecting customers who had already made the decision to invest in a PV array.
In the wake of that decision, solar installers said that they would no longer do business in Nevada and claimed the decision put hundreds of jobs in jeopardy. SolarCity dismantled a training center for solar workers it had only recently opened. And in mid-January, solar customers filed a class-action lawsuit against NV Energy, claiming that they had been misled.
The state’s Bureau of Consumer Protection asked the PUC to rethink its decision and said that existing customers should be grandfathered for at least eight to 10 years. PV Magazine said that petition was withdrawn.
It’s a question of fairness
NV Energy said that it didn’t take a position on the grandfathering question in its original filing with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) last July.
“We recognize the difficult job that the PUCN, PUCN staff, policy makers, and for that matter, all parties in this proceeding have had in trying to reach decisions on this complex issue,” Caudill’s statement said. “We also understand the history of net metering in Nevada and that a fair, stable and predictable cost environment is important to all of our customers. Our proposal seeks a balance for those who selected solar prior to the implementation of the new rules ordered by the PUCN and those without solar.”
The proposal also would apply to any customers who submitted applications for solar hookups prior to the PUC’s December order.
As Greentech Media reports, even a favorable ruling by the PUC on the grandfather issue won’t change the new net-metering rules. The new monthly service charges and lower reimbursement rates for electricity won’t be up for debate.