Las Vegas Sun

June 30, 2016

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Regulators urged to suspend hike on rooftop solar rates

The Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection and solar companies continued to urge Nevada utility regulators to suspend rate increases for rooftop solar customers that went into effect with the new year.

The Public Utilities Commission heard testimony today about whether a stay of the rates was a moot point because they’re already in effect or whether they could be suspended while motions for reconsideration are filed and heard.

The bureau has said it plans to file such a motion Friday asking the commission to reconsider its December vote to increase a fixed fee for solar customers and reduce the value of credits solar customers get from NV Energy for generating excess power.

The staff of the PUC recommended Monday that the commission deny motions by the bureau and solar companies to stay the rate increases, telling the bureau it had not proven “irreparable injury” to customers should the rates remain in effect.

In response, Consumer Advocate Eric Witkoski wrote Tuesday that, because the rates have already increased, “the reasons for this stay have in large part passed.” In contrast, solar companies maintained a stay was necessary to answer “outstanding questions” and “unclear intricacies of implementation” and to allow customers to better understand the order.

Today, both parties were more in alignment on the importance of a stay.

“The commission could still suspend the rates lawfully,” Deputy Attorney General Michael Saunders testified on behalf of the bureau. “There could be some benefit to suspending the rates.”

In a letter to the PUC on Wednesday, state Sen. Aaron Ford also encouraged the commission to stay its decision, saying, “Failure to appropriately consider these public benefits (of solar) may have unintended short-term effects on solar companies currently doing business in Nevada and stifle future growth.”

Sunrun and SolarCity already have announced they are ceasing sales and installation of rooftop solar panels in Nevada and are laying off hundreds of workers.

The commission will issue a draft order on the motions to stay of the net metering rates before the full PUC meeting on Wednesday.

SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said in a statement Wednesday that he had not yet spoken to Gov. Brian Sandoval, but he was “convinced that once he and the commissioners understand the real impact, that they will do the right thing.”

Sandoval issued a statement in response saying, “If such a statement suggests that I somehow influence the PUC’s decision, Mr. Rive knows, or should know, that such conduct is inappropriate.”

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