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NV Energy seeks solar grandfathering on eve of court hearing

LAS VEGAS — NV Energy is asking for permission to return thousands of existing Nevada rooftop solar customers to more favorable rates for the next 20 years, just days before a court considers whether to allow a sweeping solar ballot measure that the company opposes to move forward.

The company said it filed a request with the Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday to “grandfather” customers who installed a rooftop solar system before Dec. 31, 2015. The governor’s New Energy Industry Task Force recently recommended that the Nevada Legislature review a bill next spring to do so.

“We just thought this was a more efficient and effective way of getting it resolved prior to the session,” NV Energy President and CEO Paul Caudill said in an interview. “We’ve got 32,000 customers who are in a period of uncertainty. I felt if there was any way we could resolve this, we should do it.”

The filing comes as solar companies forge ahead with efforts to overturn a 2015 law that authorized a much-protested rate hike for their customers. The Nevada Supreme Court will hear arguments on Friday about whether that broad referendum — which is funded by SolarCity and would give more favorable rates to both current and future rooftop solar customers — should appear on the November ballot.

NV Energy has funded a campaign to stop the measure, saying it will force the vast majority of ratepayers who don’t have solar installations to subsidize those who do. Caudill also opposed making such a change at the ballot box.

“In an industry that’s changing as fast as this, I don’t think that’s the way you solve the problem,” he said.

Rooftop solar advocates support the concept of grandfathering existing customers, but they have said the higher rates that apply to customers who sign up this year and beyond prevent new people from going solar.