Nevada Senate passes daily double of pro-solar bills unanimously

In a state most well-known for being the gambling capital of the United States, Nevada’s Senate just laid a daily double at the door of the Assembly as the Silver State tries to revive a rooftop solar industry that has struggled for the past two years.

Two bill – Senate Bills (SB) 204 and 65  – are expected to spur solar development in they pass muster in the Assembly, which could be influenced by the fact that both bills passed the Senate unanimously. If the bills reach his desk,  it’s expected that Gov. Brian Sandoval will sign them.

SB 204 directs the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to decide by Oct. 1, 2018 whether it should set biennial goals for the integration of battery storage by utilities, to reach the following specific goals, which are outlined in the legislation itself:

  • the integration of renewable energy resources into the transmission and distribution grid;
  • the improvement in the reliability of the electric grid;
  • a reduction in the emission of 9 greenhouse gases; and
  • certain other purposes.

What makes the legislation most interesting, however, is its requirement that the PUC  consider all known and measurable benefits and costs, without limitation. For solar installers who have complained that state regulations often don’t take into account the environmental and grid-relief costs of solar, SB 204 clearly opens the door for the PUC to consider them – and in fact requires them to do so.

If the PUC determines that the benefits of energy storage systems outweigh the costs, SB 204 requires them to set biennial goals that the utilities must meet. It appears the legislation will function much like a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) does to encourage utilities to purchase percentages of their electricity from renewable sources.

In a similar vein, SB 65 requires the PUC to give preferential treatment energy sources “that provide the greatest economic and environmental benefits to the State, as well as those that provide for diverse electricity supply portfolios and which reduce customer exposure to [the] price volatility 18 of fossil fuels and the potential costs of carbon” when considering utilities’ Integrated Resource Plans (IRP).

It also requires utilities to meet with the commission at least four months before it submits its IRP to see if, in the PUC’s opinion, the plans should be altered to meet these requirements. Finally, it requires the PUC to publish its justification for any of the changes it requests.

As might be expected, clean energy advocates were delirious with joy over the passage of these two bills.

“The Nevada Senate took three giant steps forward when they unanimously passed SB204 [and] SB65 … blowing the door wide open for jobs and investment in Nevada,” ” said J.R. Tolbert, Vice President of State Policy for Advanced Energy Economy (AEE). “As the state looks to become a national leader on advanced energy, bills like these send a clear market signal to investors that the advanced energy industry is here to stay in Nevada.”

“[The] Clean Energy Project applauds the Nevada Senate’s leadership in supporting policies that would drive investments, spur on the growth of advanced technologies and build on the existing 28,000 advanced energy jobs in the state,” said Jennifer Taylor, executive director of Clean Energy Project (CEP).

“Implementation of innovative state policies supports Governor Sandoval’s vision for a new Nevada, prioritizes sustainability and clean energy usage, and mirrors the core values of the forward-leaning businesses our state would like to attract,” Taylor added.

The rooftop solar industry in the state has been struggling since the PUC decided in 2015 to phase out net-metering at a rate many installers thought precipitous. The commission subsequently altered its decision on net-metering under pressure from Sandoval and national solar installers like SolarCity and Sunrun. These bills are expected to boost the rooftop industry further.