NV Energy supports NEM grandfathering in Nevada

In a surprise move, NV Energy, the Nevada utility that pressed regulators to eliminate the state’s net energy metering system, came out in favour of allowing existing PV systems to continue to quality for the old incentive regime.

NV Energy, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, has been painted by the rooftop solar industry as a villain in Nevada’s ongoing solar policy wars, with critics accusing it of angling to kill off distributed PV – and Nevada regulators of bowing to its demands.

But NV Energy on Monday released a statement saying it will ask the state’s regulators to allow existing net energy metering (NEM) customers to remain on the old rules for a transition period of up to 20 years.

Such a move would defuse some of the sharpest criticisms of the recent policy changes, which have centred on their retroactivity.

Also Monday, Nevada’s regulator confirmed it will hear new evidence next month on the merits of grandfathering the NEM system for existing PV systems, setting up a potential reversal of at least part of its controversial decision in December to eliminate the NEM policy for both existing and new solar systems.

NV Energy’s support for a so-called grandfathering of the NEM system comes amid a groundswell of lawsuits and layoffs in Nevada’s burgeoning solar industry stemming from last month's decision. SolarCity alone has announced more than 500 job cuts in the state, with chief executive Lyndon Rive publicly calling on Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval to intercede.

While the solar industry will be hoping to block changes to the NEM policy for future systems as well as existing ones, a grandfathering policy would at least prevent a wave of existing rooftop solar customers trying to wriggle out of their leases and PPAs because the economics of their systems have changed.

“This grandfathering proposal is being offered in recognition of NV Energy's desire to treat all customers, including those who had previously made a decision to install rooftop solar, fairly," says Paul Caudill, NV Energy’s chief executive officer.

“Our proposal seeks a balance for those who selected solar prior to the implementation of the new rules ordered by the PUCN and those without solar."