Nevada PUC chair brings scant energy record

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The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) is somewhat notorious in the solar industry, largely for the dismantling of net metering in the final days of 2015 under Chair Paul Thomsen. This wildly unpopular move engendered fierce opposition from the solar industry, and under new commission chair Joe Reynolds the regulatory body implemented a successor program to net metering that has allowed the state’s industry to thrive.

And while Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (R) attempted to distance himself from the short-lived removal of net metering, it was he who appointed both Thomsen and Reynolds, as he appoints all three PUC members.

Last week this game of musical chairs continued, with Sandoval appointing his former senior advisor, Ann Wilkinson, to chair the regulatory body in the wake of Reynolds’ resignation.

Wilkinson will take office September 17, and brings ample legal and judicial experience in a career that spans more than 20 years and includes positions at the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and work as a city attorney for the cities of Reno and Henderson. But she focused on health and human services issues while advising Sandoval, and aside from a stint as the assistant general counsel of PUCN – during the period before the state disassembled net metering – pv magazine was unable to find anything in her record relating to energy.

As such, it is inherently difficult to predict how Wilkinson will respond to the kinds of renewable energy issues that come up in a state that is one of the leading residential solar markets, and where both large corporate customers and ordinary ratepayers are both resisting NV Energy’s monopoly as they seek to instead take greater advantage of the state’s ample sunlight.

Sunrun, one of the leading players in fighting the dismantling of net metering, welcomed Wilkinson to the role. “We look forward to working with Commissioner Wilkinson, who has extensive  experience in Nevada government,” said Alex McDonough, VP of public policy at Sunrun. “Her background and expertise on law and public policy will serve Nevada well.”

But the only factor that pv magazine has found which may determine her future decisions is Wilkinson’s links to Sandoval. And this only reinforces the fact that it is ultimately Sandoval who runs the show.