Sunny Nevada Just Killed the Solar Industry with 40% Tax Hike, Derailing the Off-Grid Movement

WNC-bently-2By Justin Gardner

While Nevadans were celebrating the holidays under solar-powered lights, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted unanimously to increase a monthly fee on solar customers by 40% while reducing the amount they get paid for excess power sold to the grid. Adding insult to injury, they made the rate changes retroactive, sabotaging consumer investments in solar energy.

This single move by government regulators will effectively kill the solar industry in Nevada and put an end to the surge of people seeking to detach from the grid by harnessing their own energy from the sun. Just as importantly, it serves to protect the profits of Nevada’s public utility company, NV Energy.


“It will destroy the rooftop solar industry in one of the states with the most sunshine…There is so much wrong with the decision,” said SolarCity CEO Lydon Rive. “The one beneficiary of this decision would be NV Energy, whose monopoly will have been protected.”

Two major solar companies, SolarCity and Sunrun, have already left the state, causing upwards of a thousand job cuts. Many more renewable energy jobs are at stake. Solar industry supporters and workers are planning to protest the new rates at a rally in Carson City and Las Vegas, as industry and public outcry may force regulators to reconsider their decision.

One Nevada resident wrote in the Las Vegas Sun that she feels “financially ambushed” after tapping into their retirement savings to become a solar household. Before the rate change, the system would have paid for itself in 14 years, but now that will never happen.

With the new pricing for [net metering] customers, the value or price of the energy they produce will be vastly reduced. In addition, the flat service charge for NEM customers will rise to three times that charged to nonsolar residential customers, a kind of penalty for producing much of our own electricity. The people with solar on their homes feel cheated; solar businesses are closing or leaving.

NV Energy—a regulated monopoly with an “authorized rate of return”—is unabashed in saying that the surge in renewable energy is cutting into their profits. Last year the company, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, got Sen. Patricia Farley to draft the amendment that shifted the state’s net metering over to the PUC. In their view, solar customers “don’t pay their fair share to maintain the grid.”

With the rate changes, Nevada regulators are demonstrating the willingness and ease with which government can neutralize the “off-grid” movement while protecting their favorite utilities. Rooftop solar, along with innovations such as Tesla’s Powerwall, represents a huge opportunity for people to free themselves from an energy structure ruled by corporations and state co-conspirators.

Residential solar customers are not the only threat to the profits of NV Energy.

A consortium of casinos and businesses is looking to leave NV Energy’s grid and start generating their own power, saying they’re being placed at a competitive disadvantage because they’re paying more for energy than their business rivals in nearby states. The state Public Utilities Commission has said it would charge hefty fees — $27 million in the case of Las Vegas data center Switch — to let industrial ratepayers leave the system.

The fight between NV Energy and the solar industry may be a microcosm of a larger struggle involving the fossil fuel industry. The American Energy Alliance, a fossil fuel advocacy organization backed by the infamous Koch brothers, applauded the Nevada decision as a matter of national policy. They are pushing efforts in other states to curtail the rise of solar energy.

In this vein, the outcome of Nevada’s situation could have implications far beyond that state.

Nevada could set a precedent for other states, Hugh Wynne, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., wrote in note Tuesday. Regulators across the country are grappling with how to spur the development of clean energy sources while ensuring operators can collect enough money to maintain and update their grids. – Bloomberg News

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The question must be asked, why does government protect the status quo? Why is it assumed that existing utility operators must be preserved in this rapidly changing energy landscape? Instead, consider that old utility grids are no longer applicable in the 21st century.

This is a pivotal moment in the evolution of the energy paradigm. We have the ability to leave behind the dirty, corrupt legacy of fossil fuels and enter an era of localized, renewable energy. As The Free Thought Project reported in November, within 25 years we could have a complete energy transformation, as the cost of renewables declines and technology advances exponentially. Rooftop solar and localized systems will lead the revolution.

In order to achieve this, we must break from the grip of those who would keep us in the dark ages to satiate their thirst for power and wealth.

Image Credit

Justin Gardner writes for TheFreeThoughtProject.com

  • colinjames71

    F*cking outrageous. Hey, let’s kill jobs and the planet at the same time! The only hope here is overreach leading to mass revolt against this action. If they had just raised the tax and reduced the payments slightly, they’d probably get away with it without a fight. By doing it this way, it’s such transparently audacious monopoly protection with a punch in the face to so many people, it’s bound to backfire. Hopefully.

  • joe

    …and no “official” has hanged yet? Land of the “free”?

  • CAWS

    Utility companies are not allowed rate hikes without state govt approval. This is illegal discrimination plain & simple. Needs a class action suit & if that fails get it on the ballot. Don’t the solar companies know they have to be politically active to protect themselves?

  • Fred54

    So disconnect from the grid entirely and build a ballasting Solar system. Batteries and inverters. If you have no NV energy bill they can’t charge you anything.

    • Brad Dueringer

      Exactly my thoughts

    • Christopher L Banacka

      Depending on your city and state that is a crime, or there are HUGE monthly fees to do it.

      Many states will condemn your house and say it is not livable if you do not have city run power going to it.

      At least, that was the threats i was given if i take myself off and quit paying their monthly fees…

      • Tuaca1107

        I have a transformer a pole 120′ from my house. I will definitely use batteries and NOT use their poles and transformers. The bully you into “hooking up” so they can keep track of you. Think Smart Meters of surveillance meters.

    • Mr Charrington

      not true unfortunately– they wont give you a “occupancy permit” if you are not attached to the “grid” then send in SWAT teams if you refuse to vacate your own home… true story…

      • tomas rader

        Not true … I’m electrical contractor that researched this. U must stay on the grid that’s true … I tell customer as backup power supply on total battery discharge maybe. BUT … u don’t need to send your PV power to grid. This is accomplished with a auto transfer or manual transfer switch. From PV panels to battery stack (48 to 52 DCV) to inverter to house system panel 2 pole breaker 20 amp (240 VAC) then to (cheap easier way) backfeed from same house panel on 2 pole 100 amp breaker to all house branch circuits u want to feed in what we call an emergency bypass panel (in this panel also set up a genset feed plug to a 2P breaker to justify it to code enforcement) … the generator is stage dressing. Manually turn off main breaker during daylight hours. Turn back on at night (minimal power usage on bill). This is why u need a manual transfer switch … hire an electrician that knows theory. Pay for the permit n inspection. DO NOT ALLOW DSL MONITORING … forgo the credit n rebate. $22000 to 25,000. Maintain that battery pack n keep those panels clean. You’re now paying minimum n have a legal backup system. Get a letter from your doctor declaring u need emergency power for med equipment. Let em try to deny that n lawyer up … they’ll settle n never bother u again. $50 × 1.4 = $70 … new bill. Just remember to turn on/off that main breaker … till it becomes a habit. Done 3 of these so edison hates me.

  • disqus_q0fJBDaGHm

    Right, go entirely off the grid. Call those greedy bastards and tell them to come get their meter and to not come back.

  • BlackJack77

    This all makes sense. The LAST thing the system wants you to do is to be free of needing them. The more dependent you are the more one sided a deal they can impose upon you.

  • Operator99

    Liberals created it, liberals promoted it, liberals made promises if you bought it, and in the end- Liberals sold you out for the benefit of the State. Kind of like ObamaCare.

    You keep believing in that State-Run Utopia.

    I live TRULY off the grid with my own solar, wind, water. Anything involving a “partnership with the State” is doomed to always benefit the State. When is the last time you ever saw THEM take a pay or power cut? That’s your duty, lowly Serf….

    • zybch

      Hmm, Nevada is a republican run state, with republican governor and majority repub reps. So tell me how this is a ‘liberal’ caused thing?

      • Operator99

        The first mistake you make (like alot of progressives) is to assume that “Republican” means “Conservative”. Nevada Republicans re about as “right-wing” as the California ones. The Conservative Base are currently in a full-fledged rebellion with the RNC over just that liberalism.

        That being said, the people who run all this are not the Gov or Legislature, but the Public Utilities Commission. And every single member is a left-leaning lawyer, with deep ties to (and work history with) the Environmentalist Left and Harry Ried. Harry, of course, got huge payoffs from the Chinese (suppliers of the solar panels) and got all this scam pushed through. He knew, along with the PUC, that it was economically unsustainable without rate increases or a tax bailout, but also knew that voters are stupid. And would simply blame the Republicans at the State House, who actually had nothing to do with the overall deal. Other than rubber-stamping it so they would look “green”.

        Republicans have been played by Harry and the Dems so often, their political incompetence borders on Special Needs territory. But they also have a clueless electorate to contend with. An electorate that assumes that some corrupt deal, or bad policy made almost 10 years ago, is the fault of the people in office right now. But in the end, that uninformed electorate who allows sunshine to be blown up their azz, gets exactly what is happening to them right now. And they’re so stupid, they will vote for the same corrupt people who sold them this unworkable plan…

  • Jim McMexico

    Evil sociopathic politicians.

  • don sheets

    i guess the public utilities commission hasn’t heard about the “ex post facto” Prohibition when getting legislation passed.

  • xyz234

    Just leave the system entirely. if you are going to invest in solar panels, go the whole hog and buy batteries too. If you don’t deal with the utility company, the utility company can’t screw you. This is one of the few opportunities afforded to lowly peasants to just WALK AWAY from one facet of the evil power structure strangling the whole world.

  • Brett Cooper

    Time to break up that monopoly into Lines provider and Power generators.

    • zybch

      We did that here in victoria/australia and it made things way WORSE. Now instead of just a state run utility which was very profitable, we have private corporations (generation/supply/retail) representive the state’s power industry which each make as much profit as the entire system did before privatization was forced on us by the conservative government of the day.

      And 80% of that tripling of the profits goes overseas while we have regular black/brown outs and little to no maintenance is done on the network till it catastrophically fails, leaving tens of thousands with a power system we just can’t rely on and yet pay more than 5 times as much for compared to pre-privatization.
      Isn’t unfettered capitalism grand!

  • geo brecke

    I put a lot of effort into making sense out of this post, I failed…….

  • Tom

    Sure, they can condemn your home if you try to live without the local power company. And if you refuse to vacate your home – they evict you and seize the property. The best way around that is by doing what so many liveaboards do on their large sailboats: Living on a boat makes you entirely portable, able to generate your own solar and wind electricity, and with a reverse-osmosis watermaker, even do without municipal water. These liveaboard people travel from port to port, marina to marina, nation to nation. Just have a reliable source of income arranged…

    • zybch

      Because thats just SO financially feasible for the millions, including old age retirees, who ONLY went into debt to get solar because they couldn’t afford the ever inflating price of power.

    • Deep Midnight

      Yeah thats the trick; how to have income while boating.

  • BellsNwhistles

    Citizens pay a premium on Electricity in the Pacific North West to support the Aluminum plant. If the Public did not pay the extra amount the Aluminum would be too expensive for China to purchase and no one would make a profit..That is the definition of capitalism

    • corbyh

      Don’t you mean fascism?

  • zybch

    OMG, 5 birds!! Call the army, this evil plant immediately and build a polluting coal station instead that doesn’t harm a single thing and all that soot and CO2 is good for the environment don’t ya know.
    When did you last eat chicken…

  • corbyh

    How about when you buy a bicycle you have to pay Ford Motor $20 per month because you cut into their profits by not buying a car instead? This seems to be the general direction of things.

  • corbyh

    Good lord, who do you work for?

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