Nevada’s New Rules Shuts Down Solar Industry

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Public utilities commission (PUC) claims solar customers were not paying their fair share for maintaining the grid.

THE GUARDIAN | by Suzanne Goldenberg:   The decision to replace economic incentives with new higher fees pulled the carpet out from under an industry that provided 8,700 jobs in the state last year, according to the Solar Foundation, and stranded some 17,000 homeowners who have already gone solar with a financial liability on their rooftops.

Three companies, including SolarCity, announced they were quitting the state, laying off about 1,000 workers.

The solar showdown pits Elon Musk, the electric car billionaire and cofounder of SolarCity, against Warren Buffett, owner of the state’s monopoly electricity provider NV Energy.

The new rules, confirmed on 12 February, raised the monthly fees to solar customers from $12.75 to $38.51 over 12 years while dramatically cutting back the rates that customers were paid earlier for feeding surplus power back into the grid from about 11 cents a kilowatt hour to about two cents.  Homeowners who are suing NV Energy in a class action estimate the new rates add 40% to their monthly bills, while reducing the amount they get paid for the solar energy their panels produce by 18%.

SolarCity arrived in Nevada in 2014, shaking up the market for rooftop solar with a leasing plan that allowed homeowners with good credit ratings to put solar panels on their rooftops with no money down.

The company could barely keep up with demand – until 22 December, when the new rules were announced. “We literally stopped business within that hour, pulled installs off the roof, finished up the jobs we had within that hour and we were done,” Holden said. “It pretty much shut down the industry.”

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