Solar advocates argue Nev utility lied for net metering cap

Nevada solar advocates are outraged at the state’s largest utility’s seemingly deceptive tactic to trick the legislature into enacting a net metering cap that could begin limiting rooftop solar installations before September.

Nevada lawmakers were tasked with deciding whether or not to increase the net metering cap this spring and ultimately made a small boost from 225 megawatts to 235 megawatts. But they might have made the decision with bad information from the state’s biggest utility provider.

NV Energy, owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, told legislators this spring that it would not meet the cap – at current solar adoption rates – until at least March of 2016. Representatives from the utility adamantly proclaimed to media and the public that it would not reach the cap this summer.

However, the utility told solar installers last week that it miscalculated the amount of solar already installed and that it actually has 17.5 megawatts of distributed solar generation it missed in previous counts, meaning the utility will hit the new cap within about six weeks, according to an article in the Las Vegas Sun.

“No explanation has been provided as to the reason that the 17.5 MW was overlooked or how the discovery was made that the 17.5 MW was not included in the calculations that were provided in several public statements to Nevada’s legislators,” according to a petition submitted to the Nevada Public Utilities Commission by The Alliance for Solar Choice, a solar advocacy organization led by Sunrun and SolarCity.

Solar companies and solar advocates have been protesting the utility, arguing that the situation smells like a bait and switch tactic – deceptive and underhanded.

The utility has not made any announcements about whether or not it will continue to allow net metering contracts for new grid-connected solar installations after it reaches the new cap.

NV Energy pays a 6-cent net metering credit for energy provided to the grid by home and business owners who install solar panels. While the credit is significantly less than the retail power rate in Nevada, Buffet’s utility companies in Nevada and other states have aggressively fought net metering laws, saying they only benefit the people who invest in rooftop solar and that they cost other ratepayers.

Solar advocates argue that distributed solar saves ratepayers by reducing transmission and infrastructure expenses for the utility companies.

“It is imperative that in order to meet the very specific expectations of the Nevada legislators … that the commission clarify that [net metering] will be offered without interruption,” TASC attorneys wrote in the petition.