Las Vegas Sun

July 25, 2016

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Clinton: Don’t penalize solar customers by changing rules

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Jae C. Hong / AP

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gestures while speaking during a rally on the campus of Simpson College on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Indianola, Iowa.

Nine days before the Nevada Democratic presidential caucuses, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is jumping back into the debate over solar energy.

Clinton today said she favors an amendment introduced by Sens. Harry Reid and Angus King to regulate rate changes for utility customers who get credits for generating excess electricity, a program known as net metering.

The senators introduced the amendment amid the ongoing debate in Nevada over the future of rooftop solar, after the Public Utilities Commission increased bills for solar customers by raising fixed fees and cutting the value of those credits over four years.

“Utilities should not be allowed to penalize consumers with retroactive rule changes that cause financial hardship and slow the transition to a clean energy economy,” Clinton said in a statement.

“The amendment Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Angus King have introduced would safeguard the benefits that consumers, many in Nevada, believed they would receive by investing in clean energy in their homes and businesses,” she said.

The amendment to the Public Utility Regulatory Act of 1978 would make it significantly more difficult for regulators and utilities to change rates for net-metering customers. It was tacked onto an energy bill in late January.

It is unclear what impact the amendment would have in Nevada, if approved.

On many of her campaign stops in Nevada, Clinton has touted the benefits of renewable energy and praised the state for its investment in solar.

A few weeks after the PUC decision in Nevada, Clinton again lauded the state for its investments, prompting some in the crowd to yell, “They just took our jobs” — a reference to job cuts by solar companies following the decision.

In an interview with the Sun the same day, Clinton addressed the commission’s decision.

“I hope there is a way that this state can figure out a path forward,” she said. “I’m absolutely convinced we’re going to have to do more solar, more wind and more renewables if we’re going to have the kind of future we should.”

She said that although she didn’t know all the public utility rules in Nevada, “certainly people who acted in good faith should be given the benefit of that moving forward.”

The commission is slated to issue an order Friday on whether to allow existing rooftop solar customers to keep the more favorable rates.

In a draft ruling issued late Wednesday night, the presiding commissioner recommended the board reject a recommendation by NV Energy and the state’s consumer advocate to grandfather existing customers at the old rate for 20 years.

Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has also criticized the commission’s decision, calling it “absurd.”

“It is the exact opposite of what should be done,” Sanders said in an interview. “We should be making it easier for people to have solar panels on their rooftops, not harder.”

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