Why have residential rooftop solar companies left Nevada, killing thousands of local jobs?

In December, 2015, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada raised fees for homeowners using rooftop solar panels to generate clean, abundant renewable energy for themselves and their neighbors. Before the decision, rooftop solar installation provided thousands of jobs for Nevadans, as well as cleaner air for our children. It was a good investment in Nevada’s future. But the PUC’s decision to raise rates discouraged homeowners from buying solar panels, and solar companies were forced to cut jobs or move them out of state.

What impact would clean energy have on Nevada’s air quality?

According to the American Lung Association, Las Vegas is ranked 9th in the nation for high levels of unhealthy ozone pollution, and burning fossil fuels is the primary source. Ozone pollution has been linked to increase mortality and morbidity rates, putting Nevadans at serious risk. Moreover, deaths from pollution-related cardiovascular disease or stroke account for almost a third of Nevada’s total mortality.

Fossil fuel pollution also drives climate change, and over the last decade scientists have seen a 6 percent increase in heat-related deaths for every 1 degree increase in temperature. Unless climate change is addressed, Nevada’s health care costs will continue to dramatically rise and Nevadans will suffer.

14%

Only 14% of Nevada’s electricity comes from clean, job creating renewable energy produced in Nevada. 

60%

Renewables account for 60% of the world’s new electric capacity, according to the renewable energy research network REN21. 

33%

Deaths from pollution related cardiovascular disease or stroke account for almost a third of Nevada’s total mortality. 

Clean energy advocates are working with local, state, and national leaders and regional partners to complete Nevada’s transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable power. Nevada is already experiencing the very real benefits of developing clean energy to our economy and our environment today. There’s no reason to wait.

Where does NV Energy stand on residential rooftop solar?

In December 2015, the PUC raised fees for customers with solar panels on their homes, sparking controversy over the costs and benefits of rooftop solar. The PUC decision had an immediate negative impact on the residential rooftop solar industry in Nevada, causing solar installers to lay off Nevada workers. NV Energy agreed that customers who had already invested in rooftop solar panels on their homes should keep the old, beneficial rates, and the PUC has “grandfathered” prior customers in at the older rates. Then, in January 2017, the PUC agreed to reinstate the old rates for about 1,500 new potential rooftop customers in Northern Nevada, breathing some life into the rooftop solar industry. NVEnergy is protesting that PUC decision and a judgment is expected early this year. 

 

How can we make sure the PUC works for Nevadans and our economy?

The PUC’s decision in December 2015 to quadruple charges for residential, rooftop solar producers, while slashing payment for power produced by more than 75 percent, virtually destroyed a growing solar installation industry. This sparked a debate about whether the state should consider reforms to the PUC to ensure it considers the long-term advantages of renewable energy, including economic benefits for Nevadans.

The current PUC model prioritizes short-term cost considerations, while discounting the long-term savings that could be gained from investing in clean energy. Renewables provide low-cost and reliable energy with no fuel costs, support job creation, and clean up the air we breathe. Fossil fuel plants, on the other hand, will come with price shocks when gas prices rise – driving up electricity rates with them. We know switching to clean energy can be profitable for utilities and good for consumers.

While some utilities are aiming to provide 100 percent renewable energy to their customers, Nevada must do more to make sure in-state utilities are doing all they can to provide consumers with job-creating clean energy choices. Policymakers must prioritize clean, renewable energy, and that could mean reforming the PUC to ensure it works for our economy and for consumers.

9th

Las Vegas is ranked 9th in the nation for high ozone pollution, and fossil fuel burning is a major contributor to air pollution. 

What is the Governor’s New Energy Industry Task Force?

Governor Sandoval reconvened the New Energy Industry Task Force in 2016 to consider a comprehensive plan to develop clean energy technologies, spur investment and protect consumers. In September 2016, the Task Force delivered recommendations to the Legislature and Governor Sandoval that included increasing the amount of clean energy our majority utility is required to use; regulations to make rooftop solar more attractive for potential investors; and making energy efficiency investments available for renters and low-income homeowners. The Legislature is expected to consider the recommendations during the 2017 session.

Are the rest of us paying more to cover the costs of rooftop solar for other customers?

The short answer: No. Independent studies show that rooftop solar actually saves Nevada consumers money. Regulators who considered the costs of rooftop solar in December were working with incomplete numbers that excluded the many benefits of rooftop solar – including better reliability and lower costs for consumers. Two peer-reviewed studies show the real benefits of rooftop solar and net metering. Both found there is actually a financial benefit for ratepayers.