The Nevada Public Utilities Commission has voted to phase in higher rates for rooftop solar customers over a longer period of time than previously approved.
Regulators voted 3-0 on Friday to implement the new rates over 12 years, rather than four years. The PUC says the change to a rate that accounts for "the cost of generation, transmission, and distribution" will happen in four steps
Commissioners approved new rates in December for customers who use net metering or sell excess energy from their solar panels back to the utility.
Regulators say the rates better reflect the declining cost of solar power and phase out a subsidy traditional energy customers pay to support a much-smaller group of rooftop solar customers.
All current and future rooftop solar customers are placed in their own rate class with charges reflecting what it calls the cost of providing service. NV Energy pays solar customers per kilowatt hour at close to the same amount as the utility sells it for, according to one local solar executive.
Solar customers are upset about the PUC's decision because they wanted regulators to adopt a plan that would grandfather in better rates for net metering customers.
"It definitely has been a roller coaster, it's upsetting for all the customers and takes away the security of the employees too," said Wil Bailey, a solar employee.
Existing solar customers had been holding out hope for a plan to continue last year's rates for the next 20 years. Customers were allowed to "bank" excess power generated by their systems and use it at a later time.
"What Sandoval has done, and what the PUC has done, it's not right," Sarah Abraham, solar employee.
According to the PUC, the owner of One-Sun Solar Electric, Louise Helton, says while she's disappointed with the ruling, it buys more time to lobby lawmakers.
"It will give us time to make our case with our legislative representatives, etc. to make sure we get a better shake going forward," Helton said.
"We're going to win this if it's going to take a month or a couple of months, we're going to win this," Abraham said.
Solar rates could end up on the November ballot. In the meantime, Nevada governor, Brian Sandoval, issued a statement regarding the decision, saying the PUC didn't reach the outcome he hoped for, and that it doesn't go far enough to protect solar customers' interest.
Sandoval appoints the members of the PUC but has refused calls from the solar industry to intervene.
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