Reid bashes Nev. utility over rooftop solar stance

Source: Geof Koss, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, August 26, 2015

LAS VEGAS — Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) yesterday used the bully pulpit of his annual Clean Energy Summit to lean on his home state’s chief power provider, which is embroiled in a closely watched battle over rooftop solar.

Reid repeatedly castigated NV Energy over its position in the rooftop solar fight, which pits the state’s dominant utility against its burgeoning solar industry.

NV Energy last week said the state had reached the 235-megawatt cap on net metering months sooner than expected, throwing into doubt the future of Nevada’s popular rooftop solar program. Solar interests are crying foul, noting that NV Energy had told lawmakers this spring that the cap wouldn’t be met until next year.

The Nevada Public Utilities Commission is expected to announce new rates for the solar program within days, after rejecting a petition by solar advocates this month to continue the current program as it deliberates (EnergyWire, Aug. 14).

Reid, who previously forced the utility to back down from plans to build new coal-fired generation in the state and close an existing coal plant, said the company is hewing to an outdated business model and going against its customers’ wishes.

While acknowledging that NV Energy has “done some really good things” since its 2013 acquisition by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Reid nonetheless said that on rooftop solar, the company needs to “get real, understand that there’s a new world out there.

“If NV Energy continues on the path they’re on, they’re going to wind up losing,” he told reporters. “Certainly lose in the battlefields of public opinion. And although I haven’t practiced law for a long time, I think the courts will ultimately decide that they’re wrong. Things are going to have to change. And I would hope that they’re going to become more realistic and understand what consumers want in Nevada and around the country.”

However, asked who should make decisions on net metering, Reid called courts the “least favorable” option. “We have the legislatures all over the country, we have the public service commissions all over the country, and we have governors around the country with a lot of administrative authority,” he said.

The Nevada net-metering fight mirrors similar debates over rooftop solar playing out in other states around the country but has drawn close scrutiny given the Silver State’s role as the epicenter of the solar boom.

During his keynote address to Reid’s eighth annual Clean Energy Summit, President Obama touted the explosive growth in renewables during his administration, which he said “has some fossil fuel interests pretty nervous.”

He urged the room packed with renewable supporters to hold the line against clean energy critics, including the Koch brothers, whom he called out by name.

“We’ve got to be able to say politely, but firmly, ‘Sorry, we’re moving forward,'” Obama said.