The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada on Friday approved a plan proposed by NV Energy and SolarCity to give up to 32,000 residential rooftop solar customers a reduced rate for 20 years.
The unanimous 3-0 vote came nine months after the same commission approved additional charges and lowered subsidies for customers who had installed or applied to install rooftop solar panels. The separate rate class for net metering customers drew strong and immediate criticism from the solar industry, including SolarCity, which threatened to cease all operations in Nevada and leave the state.
The new, more favorable rate plan was part of an agreement reached between NV Energy, commission staff, SolarCity and the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Under the plan, eligible customers will be grandfathered under a previous rate plan, which featured lower fees and higher reimbursement rates their power.
However, new customers who use rooftop solar panels will be charged the higher rates that took effect in January.
The vote in Nevada is the latest development in a nationwide debate over the rapid growth of rooftop solar and the incentives used to spark that growth. Utilities now claim the net metering programs offered to rooftop solar customers are affecting utilities’ ability to pay for the up-keep of distribution and generation assets, because the cost of operating and maintaining the infrastructure is not collected from customers participating in net metering programs.
The debate is about creating a just cost structure that is fair for both sides. The same fight is being waged in state capitols across the nation.