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November 20, 2017

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Harry Reid: Raise the cap to allow more rooftop solar

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John Locher / AP

Protesters chant during a rally in front of NV Energy on Wednesday, April 22, 2015, in Las Vegas. Hundreds of activists gathered outside NV Energy headquarters in Las Vegas to protest a state cap affecting rooftop solar installations and urge the Legislature to lift it.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. talks to the press after an event to announce the establishment of solar energy zones on large areas of Bureau of Land Management land in six Western states at UNLV in Las Vegas on Friday, October 12, 2012.

The cap limiting how many homeowners in Nevada can provide solar power to the energy grid is “way too low,” said U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic minority leader.

Reid’s comments are the first from a member of Nevada’s congressional delegation on the matter and come as Nevada’s largest rooftop solar companies — SolarCity and Sunrun — lobby state lawmakers to raise the current 3 percent cap.

If the cap is not raised, the rooftop industry will shed thousands of jobs in a state that touts itself as No. 1 per capita for solar jobs, industry lobbyists say.

“It would be a real shame for not only homeowners but also the state at large” if lawmakers don’t increase the cap, Reid said from his Capitol Hill office on Monday.

“Every time we have a homeowner who’s able to install their own solar panels, it lessens the need for more power,” he said.

The cap is part of a policy called net metering, which lets NV Energy offer credits — reduced electricity rates — on power bills to customers who have rooftop solar panels and provide energy to their homes and the grid.

State government is in charge of increasing the cap, which could hit its limit in Nevada by the end of the year.

Reid wrote a letter to Gov. Brian Sandoval on the matter. Sandoval has said he will remain neutral on the topic until a bill reaches his desk.

Lawmakers have not debated or cast any votes on the matter. A bill to increase the cap was circulating at the beginning of the session but was never introduced into a committee.

With 18 days left in the legislative session, the only measure in play right now is a draft amendment that would call for the Public Utilities Commission to raise the cap instead of the Legislature. The amendment, sponsored by Sen Patricia Farley, R-Las Vegas, has yet to be heard in public debate.

Across the nation, 44 states have similar net-metering programs and many are pushing to increase or eliminate caps. Utilities, meanwhile, have tried to limit caps or impose fees on net metering.

In Nevada, NV Energy champions large-scale, industrial solar programs, but it has been resistant to net metering. NV Energy and other utilities say the net metering credit is a subsidy because ratepayers without solar panels are subsidizing customers who get the net-metering credit.

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