Las Vegas Sun

March 24, 2017

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Faith leaders, Latino advocates, students rally for solar at PUC

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Kyle Roerink

Caitlin Gatchalian, a 17-year-old Las Vegas high school student, speaks at a news conference after testifying before the Public Utilities Commission . She asked the PUC not to increase the cost of rooftop solar.

More than 75 officials from solar companies, members of faith groups and activists filed testimony and rallied at the Public Utilities Commission today, marking the first of three days this week where regulators will weigh the future costs of rooftop solar in Nevada.

People protested a proposal by NV Energy that would impose new costs on rooftop solar customers and reduce credits they receive for participating in a program called net metering, which pays rooftop solar customers for energy they provide to the grid.

Regulators have a December deadline for coming up with a final price structure.

Solar advocates say NV Energy’s proposal would kill the industry.

Caitlin Gatchalian, a 17-year-old student from West Career and Technical Academy, asked regulators if “they want to be pushed around by big companies?”

“I don’t,” she said.

NV Energy, the state’s largest utility, owned by billionaire Warren Buffett, says the net metering credits shift costs to nonsolar customers. One of the arguments made by other opponents of the credit is that low-income families don’t have access to rooftop solar and the credit.

“The PUC should be exploring how to expand our communities’ benefit from and access to rooftop solar, not undercutting it,” said Rudy Zamora, program director for Chispa Nevada, the Latino advocacy arm of the League of Conservation Voters.

More rooftop solar means less dependence on foreign energy, said Bill Thomson, a field director for the Christian Coalition of America, a group that mobilizes religious voters.

“We understand that big business and capitalism are a part of government,” he said. “But we also understand that when technology proves there are other ways of doing things, we need to grasp the opportunities.”

The PUC will meet Wednesday and Thursday with NV Energy, rooftop solar companies and other groups to work on a final compromise.

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