Back during late 2015 and early 2016, wealthy investors aligned with Nevada utilities in an attempt to kill off a wave of rooftop solar adoption rippling through the state.
Campaign money was promised, shady back-room deals were made, and in 2016, the state set forward a policy that would basically make it uneconomical for homeowners to purchase or maintain solar rooftops. Credits to homeowners with solar roofs who sold electricity back to utilities dropped from 12.5 cents per kilowatt hour to 2.5 cents.
This crushing blow to clean, distributed energy resulted in mass protest both from the Nevada public and from the industry itself. Demonstrations erupted in the Nevada capital as Solar City (now under Tesla), Sunrun, and Vivint all decided to pull the plug on state operations in an all-out boycott to protest Nevada’s anti-renewables policy. In total, 2,600 clean energy jobs were lost in Nevada as industries fled the state and solar adoption rates plummeted.
Many thought this was the short-term end for rooftop solar in Nevada. That residents wanting to tap the abundant, clean power source would have to wait for battery prices to drop enough for them to go off-grid. But since 2016, it appears that the Nevada government has now had a change of heart in the face of a powerful counter-lobbying campaign by the solar industry, progressive politicians, and the public. For yesterday, both Governor Sandoval and the state legislature reinstated a net metering policy that is far more benevolent to homeowners with solar roofs and the solar industry at large.
(Nevada Governor Sandoval signs new state law re-opening the state to the rooftop solar industry. Image source: Vote Solar Nevada.)
It’s worth noting that the new policy makes far better sense for Nevada — which has no fossil fuel resources to speak of, but possesses an abundance of sunlight and is home to Tesla’s Gigafactory 1. And the fact that Nevada ever turned against renewables at all is a testament to the harmful influence fossil fuel based utilities are sometimes able to exert on state governments. But this effort to stymie renewables and home solar ownership ultimately failed.
Assemblyman Chris Brooks, a Democrat who spearheaded a clean energy push in Carson City provided this gauge of Nevada public sentiment in Scientific American:
“A lot of folks would say, and you would be surprised, ‘Las Vegas has so much sun; why aren’t we putting solar on every roof in Nevada? People across the state, from many different demographics, many different socio-economic situations, all said, ‘Why don’t we use more solar?’”
The newly reinstated policy will provide utility buy-backs for home solar generation at no less than 75 percent of the retail rate (or around 8-9 cents per kilowatt hour) and would be phased to allow new solar purchasers to receive higher payback rates during early years of ownership to help defray system costs. This policy stability ensures that homeowners who buy solar will receive a good return on their investment.
And it’s something politicians in the state are pretty proud of. Republican Governor Sandoval suggested that the program be a model for other states looking to incentivize renewable energy as the bill was signed.
“I believe, humbly, it will be a national model across the country.” he said to a crowd of solar advocates at the signing ceremony. “I’m as competitive as it gets, and I want Nevada to truly be a leader in energy policy.”