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September 26, 2017

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Deadline looms for grandfathered net metering rates

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J. Emilio Flores / The New York Times

A SolarCity employee installs solar panels on a house June 27, 2014, in Camarillo, Calif. SolarCity, the nation’s largest provider of rooftop systems, is among a cluster of companies built with the aid of government subsidies and utility incentives now facing deep uncertainties and accelerating losses despite unflagging consumer interest and surging growth in renewable energy.

Rooftop solar customers eligible for grandfathered net metering rates are running out of time to opt-in.

As of Wednesday, just 2,085 of the 7,898 customers who are eligible for the exempt rates who had not yet interconnected or installed a rooftop solar system have responded to move forward, according to NV Energy.

The deadline to opt-in is Feb. 28, so those who are up for the grandfathered net metering rate are asked to act fast to ensure they lock in the rate.

“When we initially accepted grandfathering back in the August-September timeframe, part of the issue that we had is that there was a group of customers that held active applications at the end of 2015 that actually had chosen not to move forward with construction,” said Jesse Murray, director of renewable programs for NV Energy. “Beginning on Nov. 21, we sent emails and letters to customers asking them to contact us indicating that they would opt-in to the grandfathered rate and that they would move forward with constructing their system under that application.”

Net metering is the value of credits customers earn for sending excess solar power back to NV Energy.

Solar customers use these credits to offset the cost of their panels. A 2015 ruling established that the rate would be greatly cut by 2020 — from 11 cents per kilowatt-hour to 2.6 cents — while the monthly service fee would almost triple, from $12.75 to $38.51.

Part of the grandfathering policy approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada gave those customers a little more than three months to respond with their plans.

“The response thus far is only about 25 percent of our customers,” Murray said. “From my perspective, I certainly would have expected some more customers to opt-in. However, I am not exactly sure what is behind the low turnout.”

A number of factors ranging from being busy to not knowing how to opt-in could be behind the low response, Murray said.

When the PUC initially changed the rates, national rooftop-solar installers SolarCity and Sunrun halted their operations in Nevada, stating the new structure made solar economically unfeasible.

In December the PUC unanimously issued a decision to reprimand the rate structure that went into effect in 2016. The decision was vague, but mentioned regulators would revisit rooftop solar rates in Southern Nevada toward the end of this year.

Customers who are eligible for the grandfathered net metering rates can opt-in by calling NV Energy at 866-786-3823 or emailing [email protected]

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