Last session, the Nevada Legislature passed SB 374 to punt the future of rooftop solar net metering to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The PUC then made a decision in December 2015 that resulted in a sharp downturn in Nevada’s rooftop solar sector. Can the current Legislature right what renewable energy advocates feel went horribly wrong in 2015?
Last week, I met with Assembly Member Chris Brooks (D-Las Vegas), a key player on all things renewable energy in Carson City, and asked why he wanted the Nevada Legislature to revisit net metering. His response?
“No one was satisfied with that process.” – Assembly Member Chris Brooks
Brooks was referring to the process that began with the infamous 2015 bill. “SB 374 did not give direct guidance to the [PUC]. They did the best they could with SB 374.” He critiqued the whole notion of punting the entire future of net metering to the PUC instead of the Legislature playing its traditional role in creating the policy that guides the PUC’s actions.
Brooks feels his colleague, Assembly Member Justin Watkins’ (D-Enterprise) AB 270 is needed to restore clarity to both state energy policy and the policy-making process.
“We need to take back the role of setting policy at the Nevada Legislature, then let the PUC play the regulatory role.” – Assembly Member Chris Brooks
That set the stage for yesterday’s AB 270 hearing at the Assembly’s Energy Subcommittee. During testimony, the committee digested what will likely be the amended version of the bill while the public had their say.
When I asked Brooks about NV Energy’s stance on net metering, he expressed his understanding of where they’re coming from. “They are definitely concerned about all their ratepayers, not just rooftop solar.” He described the current leadership as a “first-class team” with a “different culture than years past”.
So why AB 270? And why pursue these other renewable bills?
“I’m not here to make political statements. I’m here to put people back to work.” – Assembly Member Chris Brooks
Brooks stated his desire to see his committee’s work become Nevada law. “I want to make sure anything we passed gets signed by the Governor.” Considering many of these bills are based on recommendations from Governor Brian Sandoval’s (R) own New Energy Task Force, Brooks expressed confidence that he will sign these bills. “We have a very rational Governor who wants to make energy his legacy.”
For Brooks and his #NVLeg colleagues, Sandoval’s embrace of climate action stands in stark contrast to the challenges posed by President Donald Trump.
“We have a White House running contrary to scientific fact.” – Assembly Member Chris Brooks
Brooks added that he does not want to see Trump “undo 40 years of progress in one Administration”. But due to the growing consensus on climate change and renewable energy nationally and in Nevada, Brooks sees the opportunity for the State of Nevada to provide more leadership. If Trump manages to cut federal support for renewable energy projects, Nevada can offset that by allowing more rooftop solar, beefing up its own renewable portfolio standard, and expanding renewable energy access to low-income communities.
AB 270 is part of the RenewNV portfolio of renewable energy and climate action bills being pursued this legislative session.