One step closer: Nevada Assembly moves net-metering bill forward

C’mon, Nevada – you’re so close.

As pv magazine reported 10 days ago, Nevada Assembly Bill (AB) 405, which nearly restores net metering in the state, was headed to the full Assembly after making it out of committee. Well, this week the full Assembly passed the bill 38-2, with two abstentions. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it has been read once and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy.

AB 405, as passed, creates a “Net Metering Adjustment Charge,” giving rooftop-solar customers for excess solar credits at 95% of the retail rate up to 6% of historic peak electricity load, which is calculated as when the state’s energy needs peaked during any calendar year. Establishing a reimbursement rate of 95% nearly restores full net-metering.

The bill also merges current reimbursement rates into tiers tied to the retail rate of electricity that are calculated on the basis overall penetration of rooftop solar in the state.

The remaining tiers would be set at the following rates:

  • 90% between 6% to 8% of historic peak load
  • 85% between 8% to 10% of historic peak load
  • 80% over 10% of historic peak load

Industry observers expect the bill to pass the Senate before the legislature adjourns on June 5. It’s also expected that Gov. Brian Sandoval will sign it.

Though most industry observers think the bill is a victory, some critics argue the bill creates uncertainty in the market because the new rates are based on “historic peak electricity load,” which varies by year. The fear is that consumers considering installing solar won’t be able to calculate a payoff schedule under the system, making them less likely to invest in an installation.

AB 405 could bring to an end a two-year net-metering argument, started when the Assembly directed the PUC to cut the net metering rate precipitously and without warning in 2015. It created uncertainty in the market and hurt installers who had customers ready to install because the payback time became virtually incalculable.

But Nevada seems to have come to its solar senses. According to national business group Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) and its state partner in Nevada, Clean Energy Project (CEP), AB 405 is only the first of six bills speeding their way through the Nevada legislature, all of which are expected to pass both houses and be sent to Sandoval. The three that could directly affect the solar industry are:

  • SB 65 (Governor Sandoval’s Office of Energy) on utility Integrated Resource Planning: Serves as a backstop that would allow the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) to determine the priority of resources planned to be dispatched and prioritizes resources that reduce energy cost and demand;
  • SB 204 (Atkinson) Energy Storage: Expands the opportunity for storage deployment by requiring the PUCN to investigate the need for an energy storage procurement requirement on or before Oct. 1, 2018; and
  • AB 206 (Brooks) RPS, Would boost Nevada’s advanced energy economy by doubling the state’s renewable requirement from current law (which also includes energy storage following most recent amendments) to secure a 50 percent renewable portfolio standard (RPS) by 2030.