Renewable energy advocates and climate activists were horrified by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission’s December 2015 rooftop solar decision. Over a year later, that PUC decision may be reversed… And then some.

Late in 2015, the PUC ended the state’s previous net metering program that required utilities to buy excess electricity produced by rooftop solar units at the retail rate. The intent was to switch solar customers to a lower paying wholesale rate, a lower rate preferred by NV Energy. But late last year, the PUC began to change course in “grandfathering” existing solar customers back to the original retail net metering rate.

This all came about due to the Nevada Legislature’s passage of SB 374 in May 2015 to punt the final decision on rooftop solar net metering to the PUC.

Since then, climate and renewable energy activists have prepared to return to the Nevada Legislature to essentially undo the damage of SB 374. The RenewNV coalition is backing a series of bills to not just reverse the PUC decision, but further expand access to renewable energy.

Photo by Andrew Davey

Just hours after the PUC plead its case to the #NVLeg money committees, RenewNV held pro-solar rallies in Carson City and Las Vegas.

“Electricity is a fuel that’s indigenous to Nevada.” – Kevin McGehee, Owner of Red Rock Bar in Reno

Over 100 people packed into the #NVLeg hearing room to listen to fellow Nevadans on the need for stronger investment in clean energy. About 150 people gathered outside the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas to rally with U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-Paradise). At both locations, community leaders from all walks of life explained the importance of renewable energy to this state.
After the rally, I spoke with a couple of legislators whose votes will definitely be needed to pass any of this ambitious climate/energy package. So far, they’re presenting a united front.

It’s common sense. We should be #1 in renewable energy.” – Assembly Member Steve Yeager (D-Enterprise)

Although this is generally seen as a progressive issue, support for the clean energy sector actually has broad bipartisan support in Nevada. According to the Conservation in the West Poll Colorado College released last month, 82% of Nevadans support the use of public lands to generate more clean energy jobs. In contrast, 64% of Nevadans oppose additional coal mining in public lands. And 65% of Nevadans oppose the sale of public land drilling rights to oil and gas companies.

This is an issue I’ve heard from many constituents. It crosses political parties.” – Assembly Member Lesley Cohen (D-Henderson)

Photo by Andrew Davey

And then, there’s the matter of net metering. Nevada PUC Chair Joe Reynolds struck a conciliatory note at an Assembly Commerce and Labor Energy Subcommittee later that day. He explained how the PUC has adopted a new set of ethics standards and a series of changes to increase transparency (such as video live-streams of all meetings). Reynolds also addressed the Governor’s New Energy Task Force’s recommendations to strengthen renewable energy investment and reboot the state’s net metering program.
Despite President Donald Trump’s complaints, the cost of solar energy has declined 70% since 2008. Solar is also the nation’s fastest-growing source of electricity generation. And for all the talk of “government picking winners and losers”, fossil fuels have historically benefited from subsidies. With a more hostile White House in place, advocates hope the state government can provide more leadership on clean energy and climate action.
Nevada had been the leading solar state until the 2015 PUC decision. Solar advocates hope this legislative session will result in the Silver State getting back on track. Let’s see if this energy can be sustained.