Each time the never-ending Nevada net-metering negotiations drama seems to be over, a new spark causes them to flash like a supernova, bringing them back to the fore of the national debate on the practice.
Yesterday, NV Energy, the state’s dominant utility, asked Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) to revisit its December decision in the Sierra Pacific Power Co. rate case, asking that the savings not be directed to offset future solar customers’ net-metering costs specifically.
NV Energy’s filing is just the latest chapter in the ongoing net-metering debate in Nevada, which started in December 2015 when the PUCN eliminated net-metering. After public outcry and decisions by national solar companies to pull out of the state entirely, the commission reversed itself, reviving a rooftop solar industry that suffered significantly from its previous decision.
At issue in the current filing is whether the PUCN’s December decision contradicts its October decision in NV energy’s rate case, which lowered annual electricity rates for residential and small general-service customers for the next three years. The savings from the lower rates total $2.92 million per year, or $8.77 million over the three-year period.
The utility contends those savings were supposed to be spread over a much broader customer base than the one the PUCN outlined in its decision last month. Instead, the PUCN instructed NV Energy to reallocate the savings to what it refers to as a “small subset of future solar net-metering customers.”
NV Energy estimates the future new solar net-metering customers at 1,250 if they were all residential. The utility’s total customer base ranges between 1.3 million and 2.4 million customers throughout the state. Statistics on its specific northern Nevada customers (served by Sierra Pacific) were unavailable.
In support of its argument, NV Energy praised the PUCN for its recognition what it claims are facts:
- Net metering customers do not “go off the grid” and should be treated as a separate class of customers because they use the electric grid both to get and to deliver electricity to the grid.
- The establishment of a fair and equitable pricing structure is important to all Sierra Pacific electric customers, including those who make the decision to utilize private solar generation and those who do not.
- Credit for excess electricity energy that is delivered to the grid by private generation solar customers should be valued at a rate that is competitive with other solar options available to NV Energy. The PUCN establishes that competitive rate, in the short term, at 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour.
It should be noted that Arizona Public Service, the neighboring state’s dominant utility, made similar arguments in its recent “value of solar” docket before the Arizona Corporation Commission, which decided in effect to end net-metering benefits in December.
The PUCN has 40 days to grant or deny NV Energy’s latest request.