By MEG McCRAKEN  |  Moonshine Ink

As a new resident and homeowner in Nevada, one of the sunniest states in the nation, installing solar on my house seems to make perfect sense. But does it make cents?

That question sent me on a wild hunt for the truth about what is happening financially with solar in Nevada. I have waded through articles, grappled to understand net metering and megawatt hours, and spoken with industry experts to try to put the pieces together in a way that is understandable and clear.


The 2015 Decision that Changed the Solar Climate Dramatically

In 2015, in an effort to end net-metering (credits to solar energy users for the electricity they add to the grid), the Public Utilities Commission authorized NV Energy to change their rate structure for existing and future customers with rooftop solar. Essentially, base meter charges for solar customers were raised almost 400 percent, while the payback credit for excess power generated through solar was lowered approximately 60 percent. This change was not well received by customers.

This new structure removed the financial incentive for customers to go solar, and sharply raised the bills for existing solar customers. The rooftop solar industry in Nevada collapsed as solar companies closed their doors or left the state. It is estimated that because of this decision, more than 2,500 people lost their jobs.

The PUC claimed that, with the growing popularity of roof-top solar in Nevada, the net-metering arrangement was an unsustainable subsidy they no longer could support.

The Revival of Residential Solar in Nevada

After the 2015 decision, statewide solar installers, local and national solar companies, politicians, and residents who value renewable energy, and organizations like Bring Back Solar, Vote Solar, and SEIA, got to work to revive the solar industry. With the nation watching, a huge pro-solar initiative began to overturn the PUC’s decision.  

Because of this effort, in June of 2017, Assembly Bill 405, introduced by Assemblymen Brooks and Watkins, passed along with several other pro-renewable energy bills.

Important Features of AB 405

•  Base charge stability — base charges for solar customers shall remain the same as all other non-solar customers.

•  New net-metering rates — buy-back credit rates for excess power produced by solar will be set at 95 percent of retail value until the state reaches 80 Megawatts of installed solar capacity. For reference, 80MW is approximately 15,000 average residential systems. At that time, the net-metered rate will go down incrementally, until hitting a floor of 75 percent.

•  Solar owners’ bill of rights — solar installers are required to guarantee their products, workmanship and agreements for the life of their contracts, thus protecting consumer rights.

The Future of Solar in Nevada

“Solar is back and the future is ultimately bright,” says local renewable expert Mark Dickson, of Simple Power Solar. “Now, after this whole process, we are just trying to educate everyone on the viability of solar here in Nevada.”

Dickson, who was able to keep his employees and the doors of his company open during the solar downturn, is hopeful that this bill will help to secure a bright economic and energy efficient future for the state.

“We are seeing a big increase in well-paying solar jobs, two solar distributors are moving to Nevada next month, and now that solar rights have been secured, businesses are willing to look at solar as a viable investment,” says Dickson.

His advice? “Don’t wait. Solar is more affordable than ever. Cost of equipment has gone down, the incentives are back on the table, and there are lots of creative financing options out there.”


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