Wednesday, April 13, 2016 | 6:44 p.m.
An NV Energy-backed group, Citizens for Solar and Energy Fairness, is ratcheting up its campaign to keep a new rate structure that increases bills for rooftop solar customers. It argues that those rates keep energy rates low for the majority of other ratepayers. The campaign on Wednesday announced a statewide TV ad buy and a new website.
It is the answer to Bring Back Solar, a group vigorously fighting for the reversal of a Public Utilities Commission decision in December that tripled a fixed fee for rooftop solar customers and slashed the value of credits for selling excess electricity to NV Energy. That decision prompted several solar companies, including SolarCity and Sunrun, to cease Nevada installations, which plummeted in January. Bring Back Solar, backed by SolarCity and other rooftop solar advocates, is trying to undo the rates with a ballot measure.
The commission’s justification for its decision to increase bills for rooftop solar customers was that rooftop solar customers shift costs to nonsolar ratepayers. Citizens for Solar and Energy Fairness has echoed this in its campaign materials and statements.
“If the big rooftop solar companies get what they want, it would really hurt low-income families and punish those Nevadans who do not have solar panels,” said spokesperson Nicole Willis-Grimes, who is also the Ferraro Group’s director of public affairs. “It’s patently unfair to require people to pay for something they don’t get a direct benefit from.”
NV Energy is the group’s only disclosed backer, but Danny Thompson, another spokesman and an executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, said last month that it also has support from consumer groups. In March, the group won a legal challenge that invalidated Bring Back Solar’s ballot measure to restore more generous rates for rooftop solar customers. It argued the measure should be classified as an initiative, not a referendum.
The ruling was stayed, pending an appeal. Even if the lower court’s ruling is upheld, the fight is unlikely to stop there. Bring Back Solar said it planned to introduce another measure.
An organizer for Citizens for Solar and Energy Fairness described the TV spots as a “substantial statewide buy.” The group's ad can be viewed on its website.