Friday, Jan. 22, 2016 | 4:28 p.m.
Rep. Dina Titus, who helped draft Nevada’s rules on rooftop solar as a state legislator in 1997, is joining Sen. Harry Reid and a chorus of solar advocates in publicly criticizing a recent decision by state regulators to roll back incentives for solar customers.
Titus’ statement comes as the Public Utilities Commission, which regulates NV Energy, is processing requests to revisit its controversial decision in December that increased bills for solar customers.
The PUC raised a fixed service charge and slashed the value of credits users earn for generating excess energy under a program known as net metering.
In a letter to the utilities commission today, the Democratic representative noted she has heard from hundreds of constituents impacted by the new solar rates. Titus said the original net metering program helped diversify the economy, create jobs, save consumers money and positively impacted the environment.
“It is critical that those Nevadans who have made the investment in rooftop solar not have the rug pulled out from under them,” Titus wrote. “The sunniest state in the nation should not cast a shadow over the solar industry.”
The PUC sees the new rates as a way to make sure solar customers, who buy less electricity and avoid paying some of the utility’s fixed fees, are not shifting costs to other ratepayers. Solar advocates dismiss the cost shifts and say regulators are failing to factor benefits of solar to all ratepayers.
After the decision, two solar companies, including SolarCity and Sunrun, ended sales in the state and laid off hundreds of employees. In recent weeks, smaller solar companies have announced similar layoffs.
In December, Reid issued a statement, calling the new rates “a setback in our efforts to make Nevada the solar capital of the country.” He also criticized one of the most contentious issues in the decision — the commission’s decision not to include a grandfather clause for early adopters.
In a recent letter to a constituent, Rep. Joe Heck echoed that critique, arguing the increase in bills should not be applied to earlier adopters.
The Republican representative wrote: “There should be a grandfather clause that protects the rates of existing residential solar users.”
The new rates were implemented Jan. 1 and will be phased in gradually over four years.
Nevada’s delegation has been active on issues involving solar.
Both Reid and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller had been active in ensuring that large-scale and rooftop solar projects remain economically feasible with the recent extension of an investment tax credit.