Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015 | 1:05 p.m.
With less than a month remaining before the Public Utilities Commission decides the fate of rooftop solar in Nevada, renewable energy advocates continue to hammer their message in front of state regulators: Keep solar affordable for homeowners.
Workers from SolarCity, grassroots activists and local residents dropped off 31,650 petitions today at PUC to urge regulators to not add new fees or cut benefits for NV Energy customers participating in net metering, a policy that requires the power companies to pay rooftop solar customers for energy their panels provide to the grid.
After a public hearing, solar advocates scattered boxes of postcard-sized petitions across a table in the PUC’s hearing chambers. The cards had names of the customers and supporters asking the PUC to consider an alternative to an NV Energy-backed proposal that would cut the amount the utility pays to customers while adding charges to their monthly power bills.
NV Energy and other utility companies throughout the nation allege net metering forces the power company to shift a cost onto non-solar customers. The PUC’s three regulators will decide to implement NV Energy’s proposition or choose another solar cost framework by Jan. 1.
Las Vegas resident John Carrell joined SolarCity and other advocates for one reason: “I don’t want my rates changed,” he said.
Carrell said he participates in net metering and has seen his summer power bills drop by 97 percent.
Because customers often pay for solar panels with the savings from the power bills, rooftop solar companies like SolarCity, which employs 2,000 people in the state, say their business model will upend if the PUC imposes NV Energy’s plan.
There are at least 10,000 net metering customers participating in Nevada. They make up around 1 percent of NV Energy’s customer base. Unlike NV Energy’s large contract power suppliers, net metering customers don’t pay to transmit the energy from their solar panels (mini power plants) to the grid.
NV Energy’s proposal seeks to make up for some of those costs but solar companies say transmitting rooftop energy is not a burden on the grid.
“That’s so far from being a reality,” said Bruce Rogol, sales manager for solar installation company Robco Electric. “When rooftop gets to being 20 or 40 percent of the grid — and it will — then we should have that conversation.”
Rogol, who helped start Robco Electric more than 10 years ago, always carries a copy of his power bills to show potential customers the effect of net metering. His bill was less than $16 in August.