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July 28, 2017

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Sandoval vetoes community solar, higher clean-energy standard

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Steve Marcus

Nellis Air Force Base hosts one of the nation’s largest solar photovoltaic systems. The state is considering switching to solar power for a significant number of its buildings and facilities.

The state will not be getting a higher renewable energy standard or community solar after Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed these bills on Friday.

Assembly Bill 206 said that by 2030, renewable energy would account for 40 percent of the state’s energy consumption. The current standard is 25 percent by 2025. Also vetoed was Senate Bill 392, creating a system for community members to buy into a solar program and gain utility credits.

Uncertainty in an evolving energy market was a component of both vetoes released by Sandoval’s office Friday evening. Sandoval said in his veto of the community solar bill that it could conflict with Assembly Bill 405, a bill he signed Thursday to raise credits for rooftop solar customers under a structure known as net metering.

The net metering bill is expected to drastically strengthen the rooftop solar industry in Nevada, Sandoval said.

“SB392 attempts to link itself to AB405 by requiring the solar energy credits to be the same for both rooftop solar and community solar gardens,” Sandoval’s veto says. “Although I am confident that the system set up by AB405 will be beneficial to Nevada and its solar energy economy, it is unclear whether these bills are compatible or conflicting.”

Both veto messages also mention the Energy Choice Initiative, which seeks an open and competitive energy market. Next year, voters will decide whether to give the initiative its second approval and amend the policy into the state constitution.

Sandoval said he will include consideration of a higher renewable portfolio standard as well as community solar gardens in his executive order creating the Committee on Energy Choice.

“To achieve the goals set forth in AB206, and to respond to the concerns raised in this veto message, I will amend my executive order regarding the Committee on Energy Choice to direct it to study, review and discuss an increased RPS in the face of energy choice and make recommendations to me and the 2019 Legislature,” he said.

In vetoing the higher renewable standard, Sandoval said he would support the measure under different circumstances.

“Although the promise of AB206 is commendable, its adoption is premature in the face of evolving energy policy in Nevada,” he said.

He cited concerns including potential impacts to ratepayers and other changes in Nevada energy laws, such as the Energy Choice Initiative.

“AB206 usurps the role of the (Public Utilities Commission of Nevada) and specifically prohibits it from considering the ‘uncertainty’ of energy choice,” he said.

Assemblyman Chris Brooks, D-Las Vegas, sponsored the bill raising the state’s renewable portfolio standard. He said in a statement Friday that he was disappointed by the veto.

“Our goal this session was to shift Nevada away from a boom-and-bust cycle economy and towards a more prosperous future,” he said. “AB206 would have made Nevada not just a national leader, but a world leader, in the next generation of clean and renewable energy sources that would have diversified our economy and created good-paying, high-quality jobs.”

Brooks said he would work with Apple, Tesla, MGM Resorts and other stakeholders to bring the measure back in the 2019 legislative session.

Assembly Republican leader Paul Anderson of Las Vegas also noted in a statement Friday the bad timing of raising the renewable standard as Nevada nears its decision on the Energy Choice Initiative.

“Assembly Bill 206 will only drive up the cost of power to energy consumers,” he said.

Elspeth DiMarzio, Sierra Club’s campaign representative in Nevada, said in a statement Friday that the group saw the veto as a missed opportunity.

“A stronger commitment to the clean energy economy would have attracted investment in the state’s abundant renewable energy potential, created quality jobs, and guaranteed cleaner air and water for future generations,” she said.

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