Las Vegas, NV – Advocates for consumers and clean energy applauded a unanimous decision by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) that will both protect the growing residential rooftop solar energy industry and lower consumer power bills.
The three-member commission voted on the order Dec. 29, decisively rejecting a proposed increase in “fixed rates” that would have hurt rooftop solar and energy efficiency investors.
The Commission held a Consumer Session on Dec. 6 on the original proposal from NV Energy at which the public offered overwhelming opposition to the fee increase. The Nevada Conservation League, RenewNV, Chispa Nevada, and advocates delivered 1,464 signatures in opposition to the fee hike.
Most residential investors in rooftop solar systems are charged or credited for power they use or put back on the grid through what is called “net metering.” The PUCN, in its draft order, credited public advocates with making a difference in the debate.
“It is important to note that this rate decrease is occurring while historic levels of Net Energy Metering rooftop solar are being installed, the closure and cleanup of coal plants are being accelerated, and new energy laws are being implemented,” the PUCN said in its draft order. “Voices of Nevadans have been heard.”
“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,” the draft order continued.
Consumers, with or without solar, will see savings in both fixed and use-based charges averaging about 2 percent, the PUCN said – the first such reduction in more than 30 years, the draft order noted.
A utility representative announced at the Consumer Session earlier this month that the utility intended to defer the increase because of the public outcry, but the PUCN ruling was needed to insure the utility didn’t revive the proposal, which would have disproportionately affected low- and fixed-income people, apartment dwellers, and homeowners who invested in energy efficiency or solar energy.
“As Nevada Energy customers, we applaud this extraordinary draft order from the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada,” said Rev. Leonard B. Jackson, director of Faith Organizing Alliance. “This both protects the public interest in clean energy and healthy communities, and consumer pocketbooks. And this proves that when the concerned citizens speak clearly and cohesively, as they did against this proposal, those in power must listen and be held accountable. This rate hike would have hit not only solar customers, but also low- and fixed-income Nevadans, including seniors, and would have punished people saving money and electricity through efficiency. We commend the Public Utilities Commission for allowing time for additional public comment, and for considering the voices of consumers. We thank commissioners for staying vigilant in promoting clean energy and protecting our most vulnerable consumers.”
“Studies show increasing fixed rates has the greatest impact on families, like mine, who live in apartments and other multi-family housing, and on low-income consumers. But they also raise prices for all customers by discouraging efficiency,” said Katherine Lorenzo, an organizer with Chispa Nevada, a program of the League of Conservation Voters. “The Public Utilities Commission has an important role protecting Nevada consumers. We thank them for allowing us to speak up against this fee increase, and for ruling in favor of consumers and clean energy.”
“Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to speak on behalf of 1,464 people who opposed NV Energy’s fee hike, but weren’t able to attend the PUCN Consumer Session. Today, the Commission proved that it heard their voices loud and clear,” said Demi Falcon, an organizer with the Nevada Conservation League. “Nevadans opposed this back-door attack on rooftop solar. We are relieved to see both the utility and the commission took that opposition into consideration. And we hope this marks a new chapter where regulators, the utility, and advocates can work cooperatively to move toward a clean energy future.”