Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval last week signed Nevada Assembly Bill 405, which includes a “Solar Bill of Rights” provision. The Bill reinstates net metering with a new system that uses a tiered approach for calculating the export rate of electricity based on the overall penetration of rooftop solar installations throughout the state. The bill restores net metering rates starting at 95% of the full retail rate for excess electricity produced by consumers.
The inclusion of a net metering solution is considered a victory for rooftop solar businesses that have experienced economic uncertainty for the last two years due to a combination of policy changes and reductions in net metering rates by the Public Utilities Commission. The changes, which took effect in 2015, virtually ended net metering programs in Nevada and resulted in heavy job losses for those in the solar industry. With the passage of the modified AB405, rooftop owners will return to the existing rate classes of all other consumers, thereby protecting them from discriminatory rates, charges, and fees, according to Bill proponents.
According to a statement from Sunworks, a solar provider, AB405 protects consumers from inaccurate public utility rates, minimum warranty requirements, and other contractual disclosure terms. The bill is intended to enhance consumers’ understanding of variables in their investment options and make clearer comparisons between products.
Travis Miller, Director of The Great Basin Solar Coalition, is part of an alliance of stakeholders from Northern Nevada who represent the state’s solar industry. Miller said, “Consumers are now effectively grandfathered into the rate structure they originally enrolled into for the life of their system. In conjunction with ensuring consumer disclosures, this bill creates the stability required for Nevadans to make educated investments in clean energy solutions.”
Tesla said in a statement it will now sell rooftop solar and home battery systems in Nevada as a result of the new law. The Palo Alto, California-based company will also expand its sales workforce and seek to expand into new facilities in Reno and Las Vegas. Sunrun and Vivint Solar also said they will return to the state.
NV Energy, meanwhile, contends that restoring net metering would be very costly, according to a Greentech Media report. The utility gave a presentation to the Senate last month that forecast AB 405 would cost more than $63 million each year, or about $1.3 billion over two decades. These calculations were based on a earlier version of the bill, however -- not the bill that passed yesterday. Solar advocates also pointed out that the utility did not account for any of the costs of transmission and distribution for utility-scale solar or the benefits of rooftop solar.