Rooftop solar workers laid off in wake of solar rate changes

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LAS VEGAS — As hundreds of rooftop solar company workers are laid off this week, Gov. Brian Sandoval is urging for cooler heads before the battle over a Nevada rate hike is settled.

Both Sunrun and SolarCity have announced that they’re curbing sales and operations in Nevada because of the decision by the Public Utilities Commission to increase NV Energy bills for rooftop solar customers.

SolarCity said Wednesday that it was laying off more than 550 employees, or about a quarter of its workforce. Sunrun wouldn’t offer the specific number of those told Wednesday that they were losing their jobs, but estimated it was in the hundreds.

The state’s Department of Training, Employment and Rehabilitation issued a statement Friday offering resources to the laid off employees. The governor urged companies to be cautious and said that he supports renewable energy industries.

“The regulatory rate process that the solar industry agreed to is still ongoing and I am hopeful that these companies will not make such an important decision about lay-offs before the process can fully play out,” Sandoval said.

A new rate was set to take effect Jan. 1 with the base service charge rising from $12.75 to $17.90 per month for southern Nevada solar customers and from $15.25 to $21.09 for northern Nevada customers.

Regulators approved the changes as a way to reduce a cost-shift from the state’s 17,000 net-metering customers to the non-solar customer base, and to reflect the declining cost of solar power. NV Energy says that solar customers still rely on their transmission lines and power plants to keep energy flowing at night or when clouds pass over, preventing the panels from generating power.

But several entities have requested the rates be postponed, including industry leaders who say it hurts their business model and the Bureau of Consumer Protection within the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, which says existing customers weren’t properly warned.

The Public Utilities Commission held a meeting Thursday to consider delaying or suspending the rate hike and a decision is expected at its next meeting on Jan. 13.

The Alliance for Solar Choice representing the solar industry couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.


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