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November 18, 2019

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Sandoval not reappointing regulator behind new rooftop solar rates

Gov. Brian Sandoval will not reappoint the utility regulator who presided over a controversial decision to impose a new rate structure for rooftop solar customers, his office confirmed today.

As one of the three regulators who sit on the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, David Noble served as the presiding officer last year in a quasi-judicial hearing to consider new rules for NV Energy customers with rooftop solar panels.

Solar advocates and state officials have slammed aspects of the new rate structure, which increased a fixed fee and slashed credits for solar customers.

National solar companies SolarCity and Sunrun announced job cuts after the ruling, as they pulled sales operations from the state. Officials, including Sandoval, have criticized the PUC for not grandfathering existing customers under the prior, more advantageous rates. A solar group is suing the commission to appeal the rules, and SolarCity is backing a measure to reverse them.

Last year, the Legislature gave the commission the authority to craft new rates for solar customers. Lawmakers argued solar customers were not paying their share to maintain the power grid and asked the PUC to eliminate any unreasonable shifting of costs to other customers.

Noble presided over months of hearings and proceedings to decide the proper rate structure for solar customers. As the presiding officer, he also drafted the rate structure the commission approved.

Things got tense during the monthslong process.

Solar companies lobbed charges that the PUC was too protective of NV Energy’s interests, and Noble fired back, criticizing the industry’s lobbying tactics.

Noble’s appointment ends Sept. 30. First appointed as a commissioner in 2011, he has held legal positions at the agency since 1997. The governor’s office said the commission “needs a fresh perspective.”

“The governor is appreciative of his service at the Public Utilities Commission but has informed Mr. Noble that he will not be reappointed,” Sandoval spokeswoman Mari St. Martin said in a statement. “The governor believes the (utilities commission) needs a fresh perspective and new direction.”

“Any further announcement regarding this appointment will be made at a later time,” she said.

When asked for comment from Noble, the commission referred questions to the governor’s office.

At several public speaking appearances in the past few months, Noble has defended the new rate structure. Most recently, trade publication Utility Dive reported that Noble doubled down on his defense. Speaking this week at a National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners meeting, Noble reportedly criticized the solar companies for not constructively participating in the ratemaking.

The new rate structure, which will be phased in over 12 years, is likely to result in higher bills for rooftop solar customers. It triples a fixed fee and slashes the value of credits customers earn from NV Energy for sending excess electricity to the grid.

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