In a deal between Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s NV Energy utility and SolarCity Corp., the Nevada Public Utilities Commission voted 3-0 on Friday in favor of a settlement that will shield more than 32,000 rooftop solar customers in the state from increased fees resulting from a January decision.
Like many states, Nevada is struggling to balance the growing interest in clean energy with the needs of the utilities that keep their grids running smoothly. Claiming that the existing model had non-solar customers subsidize rooftop solar customers who were connected to the grid, NV Energy proposed increased charges and reduced payments to those selling their excess solar power back to utilities. The result was an exodus of solar companies, who acknowledged the decision as a positive initial step.
NV Energy asked regulators earlier this year to put existing solar homes back onto the rates they paid before the increases started. The Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection and the staff of the commission were parties to the agreement.
The decision was “fair for this set of existing net metering customers, and at the same time reinforces the clear path forward they established in February 2016 for those considering rooftop solar in the future,” NV Energy President Paul Caudill said.
SolarCity has said it plans to work with Nevada regulators on a solution that would allow households to install rooftop solar “without being punished with higher charges.”
The awkward dance between the rooftop solar industry and utilities in Nevada is likely to show up in more states as falling prices and favorable policy encourages more homes to install solar panels. Data compiled by Bloomberg shows growth for rooftop solar following an exponential pattern.
Should that trend continue, utilities across the US will face increasing pressure on the revenue lost on homes that reduce their electric bills by offsetting night time use with the excess power sold during the day.