Nevada installers skeptical of NV Energy’s subscription solar plans

Black Rock Solar

Black Rock Solar array at Food Bank of Northern Nevada. Photo: Creative Commons

NV Energy, a Nevada utility, filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada for a new subscription solar program that would allow residential and eventually business customers the option to meet up to 100% of their energy needs with solar power.

Nevada solar installer Sol-Up USA’s chief technical officer Tu Anh Tran thinks it would be great for ratepayers to have this new option. But she is skeptical of NV Energy’s intentions.

“NV Energy doesn’t have a good track record of doing things that benefit ratepayers,” Tran said.

Tran said NV Energy has taken a neutral position whenever there’s a new solar bill in the state. She said if the company really wants solar to grow, it will need to walk the talk and support solar growth throughout the state. She is concerned NV Energy cares more about its bottom line than increasing access to solar for Nevadans.

Tim Webb, solar sales and marketing manager for Robco Electric had similar sentiments.

“I think it is a good thing for citizens of Nevada that want to go solar, but do not have a desirable roof space or live in an apartment building, etc.,” Webb wrote in an email. “Other than that, most people would rather have their own rooftop solar system and have as little to do with NV Energy’s monopoly as possible.”

In NV Energy’s press release about the program, it says, “The projected cost per block is $2 a month, which would make NV Energy’s Subscription Solar program one of the lower-cost programs of this type in the nation. This is in addition to a customer’s normal monthly bill.”

Tran said NV Energy’s solar subscription would cost 2 cents per kWh more than the residential rate of 12.5 cents per kWh, plus an additional 5% fee and other taxes.

“We don’t know if the price NV Energy is proposing is a fair price,” she said. She’s also concerned NV Energy may want to raise the rates later on.

NV Energy’s new solar initiative comes at a time when utility investment in solar is on the rise. According to the Solar Market Insight Report 2016, utility PV is expected to account for 66% of the projected 13.2 GWdc of new PV installations in 2017.

In the release, NV Energy’s senior vice president of renewable energy and smart infrastructure Pat Egan said, “This program is specifically designed for customers who may not have access to a rooftop, but who would like a low-cost, renewable energy option or for those whom building their own rooftop system isn’t a great option.”

Tran agrees that residential rooftop solar is expensive to purchase, but mostly because of the regulatory strife around solar in Nevada.

Nevada does not yet have PACE financing. On PACENation’s website, it says “Nevada passed PACE-enabling legislation, but there is currently no program operating.” Tran said there is a need for more diverse financing options for going solar.

Because of the ongoing legislative battle over solar, Tran says many residents have a negative impression of solar, another reason she finds it important for large utilities like NV Energy to publicly stand by solar in the state.

The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada has around 200 days to make a decision on the solar subscription program according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.

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