Nevada regulators push back on NV Energy rate request

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There was a time when Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) was amenable to NV Energy’s requests to weaken the economics of customer-site solar. In fact, in a late 2015 decision that was later reversed, it dismantled net metering.

Those days are over. Last Friday PUCN issued an order that reduces fixed charges on the customers of Nevada Power, NV Energy’s subsidiary in Southern Nevada. The company’s single-family residential customers will see their basic service charge fall from $12.75 to $12.50 per month.

This comes after NV Energy pulled its request for a 31% increase in fixed charges that advocates estimated was roughly three times as large as the requests made in other states. Such moves undermine the economics of rooftop solar and have been pursued by utilities across the nation.

And while regulators typically do not give utilities all that they ask for, such requests are often partially granted and represent a way for utilities to pull in more revenue from their customers who go solar, if not undermine the solar market entirely. Instead, in this case PUCN reduced fixed charges, giving a boost to the solar market.

But the fixed charge decline was not all that was contained in the order. Additionally PUCN has called for a reduction on the per-kWh charge that Nevada Power bills its customers and brought down the company’s rate of return on investments from 9.8% to 9.4%.

PUCN notes that this will be the first rate reduction of its kind that Nevada customers have seen in 30 years, and regulators note that this comes amid both increasing amounts of rooftop solar and the closure of legacy coal plants. “The voices of Nevadans have been heard,” states PUCN in its draft order.

This may be a reference to the mobilization against the rate hike, when advocates including Nevada Conservation League, RenewNV and Chispa Nevada delivered 1,464 signatures in opposition to the rate increase. And in its order, PUCN specifically mentions boosting solar as a benefit.

“This reduction in both the fixed and usage-based parts of electric bills will benefit both lower-income Nevadans, all the while fostering growth in solar energy development and providing an incentive for even greater energy efficiency efforts,” reads the draft order.