Nevada may not have as much solar power as such a sunny state should, but it’s slowly moving in the right direction. Both SolarCity and Sunrun clearly see the potential, having recently expanded in the state.
That expansion is being threatened. As in many states, the net metering program in Nevada is being fought by utilities. In filings before the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN), NV Energy has said it wants to eliminate the program altogether.
And as in many states, both solar advocates and the public are turning out to show their support for solar and net metering.
Today, the PUCN is holding a workshop to evaluate the program, which Vote Solar says is one of the most effective state policies for enabling Nevadans to go solar.
Vote Solar reports that yesterday, dozens of concerned Nevadans gathered at the PUCN to show support for the net metering program. The crowd delivered more than 4300 petition signatures urging state leaders to stand strong for rooftop solar and the many economic, environmental, and grid benefits it delivers throughout the state.
“Rooftop solar is putting Nevada energy customers in charge of their electricity supply and utility bills like never before. By reducing the need for expensive traditional power plants and utility infrastructure, this local clean energy investment is a cost-saver for solar and non-solar customers alike,” said Susannah Churchill, regional director for Vote Solar, in a press release issued by the organization. “We urge the state’s policymakers to recognize these benefits and ensure that Nevada’s solar customers continue to be fairly compensated for them with a strong net metering program.”
Let’s hope that the recent study from the PUCN helps the Commission in making its decision. The study, like similar ones in other states, confirmed that the grid benefits of net metered clean energy systems outweigh the costs. Specifically, the benefits of the systems installed from 2014 to 2016 will outweigh costs by $174 million, helping keep rates low for all NV Energy customers. In addition to these grid benefits, rooftop solar in Nevada, as elsewhere, is proving to be a strong economic engine. Nevada’s growing rooftop solar market has driven $200 million in private investment and helped support more than 2400 solar jobs with both local and national solar companies. And that’s with the market just getting going.
“Just as leading national rooftop solar companies like Sunrun are investing in Nevada’s clean economy and creating in-state solar jobs, rooftop solar has come under attack,” said Walker Wright, spokesperson for The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC). “We encourage state leaders to stand for innovation and progress by ensuring that Nevadans can continue to generate their own clean energy.”
Naturally, local solar power development also reduces harmful pollution and contributes to healthier communities. While utilities misleadingly say lower-income people are subsidizing solar for wealthier utility customers, the pollution reduction from installing solar especially benefits low-income families, who disproportionately bear the public health burden of power being generated from fossil fuels. Another hugely important benefit to Nevada, which like other western states is facing more frequent and severe droughts, is that rooftop solar also helps reduce the use of water-intensive traditional power sources.
“Whether we are talking about healthier air for our children to breathe, water conservation during this severe drought, or combatting the very real threat of climate change, solar is readily available to be part of the solution here in Nevada. I urge our state leaders to defend our net metering program and other policies that empower Nevada homes, schools and businesses to invest in and benefit from a growing clean energy economy,” said Jane Feldman, Energy Chair for the Toiyabe Chapter of Sierra Club.
“Any Nevadan knows that our state has a tremendous solar resource. I’m proud that my solar investment is lowering my own bills as well as those of my neighbors by producing clean, reliable local electricity. It just makes sense to put that free sunshine to work with good state policy that clears the way for more Nevadans to go solar,” said retired Colonel Michael Horsley, a Las Vegas resident who went solar in 2013.
“Every week, Gymcats touches the lives of 1,500 kids, helping them grow stronger and shine. It’s important to me that we lead our students by example when it comes to transitioning away from the fossil fuels of the past and building our new energy economy,” said Cassie Rice, owner of Gymcats, one of the largest gymnastics facilities in the Las Vegas area. “Today we are proud to meet about 40 percent of our own electricity needs with plentiful Nevada sunshine. This investment in solar has helped my business take control of our utility bills, choose clean energy and further benefit the community we serve.”
The petition drive was organized by a coalition of solar supporters, including consumers, businesses, and environmental groups. Some participating organizations were Vote Solar, TASC, Sierra Club, and CREDO.