Future of Nevada solar ballot petition unclear after state Supreme Court hearing

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   August 01, 2016  /   Posted in Net Metering, Uncategorized  /   No Comments

Future of Nevada solar ballot petition unclear after state Supreme Court hearing

 By | August 1, 2016, Utility Dive

Dive Brief:

  • The Nevada Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week to determine the fate of a proposed solar ballot referendum that would restore retail rate net metering, but the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports there is no clear indication which way Justices might rule.
  • A group known as the Bring Back Solar Alliance, backed by SolarCity, has proposed a ballot referendum that would raise solar remuneration. Nevada regulators last year slashed the rate, essentially killing the residential solar industry in that state.
  • A city district judge rules in March that the ballot measure did not qualify as a referendum due to the complexity of the changes needed, but solar supporters say that decision could have far-reaching impacts.

Dive Insight:

Whether or not Nevadans will have a chance to vote on solar rates in the fall hinges on whether or not a proposed ballot measure is an initiative petition or a referendum, and solar supporters have already lost once.

Earlier this year, Carson City District Judge James Russell ruled the proposal would need to be made as an initiative petition because it would amend state law rather than acting as a strict yes-no vote.  Citizens for Solar and Energy Fairness, a group supported by NV Energy, has also called the measure “affirmatively misleading.”

If the state supreme court determines the measure should be brought as an initiative petition, it would send the solar industry back to square one, needing new signatures, and would set out a new path for the proposal. It would first need to be considered by the legislature next year, and then, if lawmakers did not approve it, voters could have their say in 2018.

Last year, regulators cut the retail remuneration rate for net metering customers down to the wholesale rate, created a separate rate class for small commercial and residential solar users, and established a time-of-use pricing option for all customers that will be gradually implemented over four years. That led to a 90% drop in new applications and a exodus of major solar companies.

Nevada's debate over net metering has been an extreme example of energy policy—aggressive tactics by solar supporters included armed observers and calls for civil debate from Gov. Brian Sandoval. In addition,  Commissioner David Noble, who drafted some of the proposals in the controversial decision, will not be reappointed after the end of his term this year, Utility Dive recently learned — a fact the governor’s office confirmed. Noble lifted the lid on the controversy surrounding the decision at the recent NARUC summer meetings, blasting the solar companies involved in the proceeding for taking an "all-or-nothing approach."

Last week, NV Energy submitted a proposal for a limited grandfathering provision for the second time just days before the court hearings.

NV Energy's latest proposal is similar to recommendations made by Gov. Brian Sandoval's New Energy Industry Task Force. Like NV Energy's filing, the task force suggests a deadline of Dec. 31, 2015 to grandfather existing solar customers. The group has also been tasked with devising an alternative solar incentive to net metering by Sept. 30.

Commissioner Noble will not be reappointed after the end of his term this year, Utility Dive recently learned — a fact the governor’s office confirmed. Noble lifted the lid on the controversy surrounding the decision at the recent NARUC summer meetings, blasting the solar companies involved in the proceeding for taking an "all-or-nothing approach."

A court decision on the referendum is expected in the next several weeks.

Recommended Reading

Las Vegas Review-Journal : Nevada Supreme Court raises concerns over rooftop solar ballot referendum

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