Friday, April 24, 2009 | 2:08 a.m.
The debate in the state Legislature on spurring renewable energy projects has been hung up over the question of whether Nevada should support small-scale solar projects, including those on home rooftops.
As Alexandra Berzon reported in Monday’s Las Vegas Sun, lawmakers are trying to decide whether to mandate that NV Energy include the small solar installations in its energy plan.
Under one proposal, the power company would be required to get as much as 2 percent of its renewable power from small projects. That might be ambitious considering that the cost of installing solar cells is still expensive. A home installation might cost $45,000. To cut those costs, there is discussion about allowing NV Energy to increase its rates to give subsidies to owners of homes and small businesses who install solar systems. With the subsidy and federal tax credits, a homeowner could cut the cost nearly in half, not to mention the cost savings of generating his own power.
NV Energy and some lawmakers are against the plan. There is a legitimate concern that even with the subsidy, the high cost would preclude many people from installing solar panels and the subsidies, in the form of higher rates, would be borne by low-income ratepayers.
Instead, NV Energy and some lawmakers say the state would be better served by pursuing large renewable energy project with tax breaks, arguing that such plans are more economical than rooftop solar panels.
Sadly, it seems as if lawmakers are viewing this as an either-or debate. That shouldn’t be the case. The state needs new sources of power and should be doing all it can to tap into an abundance of renewable energy sources — both small and large. We believe the Legislature and NV Energy should be able to find the right combination of tax incentives and subsidies, without raising rates, to encourage the construction of more renewable energy projects.