Last year about 1,400 people in Nevada submitted applications each month on average to install rooftop solar around the state, compared to 14 applications last month. Looking at the number of applications in 2015 compared to those in 2016, the current rules aren’t working, Chandler Sherman, deputy director with SolarCity explained in a phone interview.
Why the dramatic drop in numbers? The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) put a ruling into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, that made solar uneconomical, Sherman explained.
Net metering allows rooftop solar owners to receive credit from the utility for excess energy they generate. The PUCN cut the program.
“A majority of Nevada wanted to invest in clean energy at an affordable rate,” Sherman said. “The new rules are impacting the entire industry.”
The ruling resulted in the company no longer being able to do business in Nevada.
SolarCity “has been forced to eliminate more than 550 jobs in the state (as a result of the rule change),” the company said in a Jan. 6 press release.
Sherman estimated that the ruling resulted in about 1,000 layoffs throughout the solar industry in Nevada.
The rule change decision from PUCN had two big impacts.
“It increased the charges to the customer,” Sherman said, “and it decreased customer credit for energy.”
So, on Jan. 1, the bills for customers with rooftop solar panels went up.
“This included new and previous customers, so it didn’t matter if they had rooftop solar for 10 years or not,” Sherman explained.
Currently, NV Energy, Gov. Brian Sandoval, the PUCN and companies like SolarCity are working to come up with a plan for grandfathering in the existing solar customers.
“There is potential for the industry to come back around in Nevada,” Sherman said.
The PUCN is looking into the issues and will hopefully find a way to resolve the current rules.
At a prehearing conference earlier this month the decision to reject SolarCity’s request to intervene in the hearing process was reversed as part of the effort to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
In late July, NV Energy made a filing with state utility regulators to grandfather in residential net metering customers under the original rates. The proposal filed with PUCN would protect rooftop solar customers for 20 years if they had installed systems or had approved applications by the end of 2015.
The hearing to grandfather in an estimated 32,000-rooftop solar customers was held Monday and a decision is expected by the end of the month.