Net metering rules may change Nevada’s green energy strategy

January 31, 2016

CARSON CITY — Nevada gov­ern­ment and busi­ness lead­ers may have to shift at least part of their estab­lished eco­nomic devel­op­ment focus from renew­able energy to other oppor­tu­ni­ties if new net meter­ing rules drive the rooftop-​​solar busi­ness out of Nevada as pre­dicted by indus­try officials.

Rooftop solar was only very recently iden­ti­fied as a pri­or­ity for Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Office of Energy. A rooftop-​​solar ini­tia­tive imple­mented in 2012 had a goal of get­ting 5 per­cent of all sin­gle fam­ily homes and busi­nesses in Nevada to use rooftop-​​solar sys­tems. The office also had a goal of seek­ing to make solar elec­tric­ity cost-​​competitive with other forms of energy.

The office received a $765,000 grant in 2011 for its Nevada Rooftop Solar Ini­tia­tive from the U.S. Depart­ment of Energy.

The ini­tial tar­get mar­ket was 25,000 homes and busi­nesses, with 80 per­cent being res­i­den­tial and 20 per­cent com­mer­cial. The goal was for rooftop solar to be installed on 1 per­cent of the tar­get mar­ket in 2013 and 2 per­cent by 2015, with an increase in the rate of rooftop solar in the tar­get mar­ket by 20 per­cent each year start­ing in 2016, accord­ing to a news release announc­ing the grant in Decem­ber 2011.

Cur­rently, there are 15,728 inter­con­nected net meter­ing cus­tomers at Nevada Power Co. in South­ern Nevada, and 2,536 cus­tomers with Sierra Pacific in North­ern Nevada.

The energy office has also pro­vided more than $8 mil­lion in var­i­ous grants and loans, which have specif­i­cally ben­e­fited rooftop-​​solar projects and other net-​​metered solar projects through­out Nevada. Some of the projects include the city of Las Vegas, the Desert Research Insti­tute, Esmer­alda County and the cities of Car­lin, Ely and West Wen­dover, among others.

But Angie Dykema, direc­tor of the Office of Energy, said the 5 per­cent goal iden­ti­fied for the rooftop-​​solar pro­gram was related specif­i­cally to the DOE grant.

It was not an office goal, not a goal of our agency, but the grant goal,” she said.

The grant has since expired, and the pro­gram is no longer high­lighted on the agency’s web­site, where it had been posted until just a few weeks ago.

The office did just recently announce that $467 mil­lion in state incen­tives, grants and loans have been pro­vided to develop the solar indus­try in Nevada.

The agency said the funds have ben­e­fited both small– and large-​​scale projects and pro­vided more than 2,900 ver­i­fi­able per­ma­nent and tem­po­rary con­struc­tion jobs. This is part of a con­tin­u­ing effort to meet and exceed Nevada’s aggres­sive Renew­able Port­fo­lio Stan­dard, which requires the state’s energy port­fo­lio to be com­prised of 25 per­cent of renew­able energy sources by 2025.

The office has helped gen­er­ate a huge eco­nomic impact in the solar indus­try in Nevada, par­tic­u­larly with large-​​scale solar projects, Dykema said.

To read the full arti­cle, visit Las Vegas Review-​​Journal.