Rooftop advocates take to the ballot in Nev.

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, January 29, 2016

Sparring over net-metering payments for rooftop solar systems is continuing in the West, with solar companies forming a political action committee this week aimed at overturning a recent Nevada decision.

The No Solar Tax PAC filed papers Monday with the Nevada Secretary of State, along with a ballot initiative that would overturn a December decision by the state Public Utilities Commission that dramatically reduced the benefits that solar producers receive for sending power back to the grid.

The December decision, backed by utility NV Energy, revised the state’s net-metering program so that solar producers would be paid the wholesale rate (2.6 cents per kilowatt-hour) for generation from rooftop systems rather than the retail rate (11 cents per kWh), which had been the policy for several years. In addition, the new policy imposed higher grid connection fees for solar owners, roughly $38.50 per month instead of the previous $12.75 per month.

After weeks of rancor, including announcements by leading solar firms that they were exiting Nevada, the PUC issued a draft order last week saying it would consider “grandfathering” NV Energy’s 17,000 existing solar customers under the policy to shield them from a certain economic blow. NV Energy confirmed Monday that it would formally propose such a policy in a filing to regulators on Feb. 1 (ClimateWire, Jan. 27).

That hasn’t changed the solar PAC’s stance on its initiative, which requires at least 55,234 signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The PAC consists of about a dozen solar and energy efficiency companies, including SolarCity, 1 Sun Solar, Radiant Solar, SUNworks, Black Rock Solar and the Power Co.

“Does it change what we’re doing?” asked Bob Greenlee, a spokesman for the group. “Not in the slightest.” Even if the grandfathering moves forward, he said, “that doesn’t do anything for the large number of Nevada residents who want to have solar who’d otherwise be unable to because of the PUC’s decision.”

According to an NV Energy representative, the utility has 17,542 net metering customers currently and an additional 14,528 customers waiting for connection approvals. The utility didn’t say whether it would challenge the proposed ballot initiative, for which it has 15 days under state law.

“We are currently reviewing the referendum,” spokeswoman Faye Andersen said. “In the meantime, we are focused on preparing the proposal that we will file on February 1.”

Initiative backers said they expected opposition, however, and would wait to begin collecting signatures until any issues are resolved. Potential legal challenges could focus either on the 200-word description of the initiative that voters would see on the ballot or on the substance of the initiative itself.

“We’re going to wait until those challenges are resolved until we really go gangbusters,” said Kevin Benson, an attorney representing the PAC. “We’re definitely coalition-building.”