PUCN Decision on Solar: To be, or not to be…

In late November, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada plans to announce its decision on the future of solar Net Metering in the state. After many months of confusion following an equivocal decision in August, we will finally find out that day what our politicians have in mind for Nevada’s future path to clean energy.

In the preceding two months, Sol-Up has presented the working profiles of 8 of its employees, impressively showing their dedication to the job and the value it has brought to their life, as well as to the whole community. When deciding for a career at Sol-Up, all of them had made a conscious decision to be part of the solar industry in the true belief to be doing the right thing at the right time and at the right location. Going above and beyond in their daily work, they learned how to engineer, install, service and administrate complete solar systems and honed their skills to perfection on every level.

In early 2015, when the discussion about a Net Metering cap slowly came to everyone’s attention, few people truly took it seriously as a threat to the progress of solar energy in the state. It seemed too preposterous that in one of the best locations for solar energy worldwide, government leaders would seriously consider eliminating one of their most profitable industries, providing jobs for more than 6,000 people and helping to maintain energy security without relying on out-of-state resources. After barely having recovered from the worst economic crisis in the state’s history, costing thousands of jobs with a current unemployment rate of still more than 6%, no one could have thought that Nevada’s political leaders would honestly consider jeopardizing this promising industry.

And yet it is a grotesque reality, leaving people from all political spectra stunned at the incapability of the current political system. Unlike with any other topic, the overwhelming majority of Nevadans stand united in their support for solar energy, believing in the individual rights to produce their own power, under a sustainable regulation. So how did we get to this point? Why did this discussion even come up at all, having caused already so much damage through the confusion it created?

The answer is as simple as frustrating: Because we have an outdated utility model which does not represent any more the demands of a modern energy infrastructure:

  • Numerous independent research in various states in the U.S. have proven that Net Metering at the current level is a benefit to the grid, and it is in no way a burden to non-solar ratepayers. Instead of accepting the reality, the utility tries to justify their point of a view with their own biased study.
  • In Nevada, unlike in other states/countries with colder climates, the solar production corresponds with the energy demand providing power at exactly the time when it is most urgently needed. Despite this fact, the utility comes up with an arbitrary cap on solar production, lacking every scientific evidence.
  • At a time of rapidly progressing climate change, severe drought in the West and continuous air pollution, we simply have no choice other than to invest in renewable energy. Every utility today has to realize this fact.

Yet in all fairness, we can’t blame everything on the utility. In the past years, more and more solar companies, many of them from out of state, have entered the market, attracted through the perspective of quick profits while lacking business ethics and hoodwinking clients with untruthful promises. In particular, the providers of leasing systems developed a sales practice of pushing low-income clients into contracts with questionable financial predictions and betraying the public by collecting disproportionate tax credits through artificially inflated system costs. The method of selling solar installations like insurance packages has flooded the market with a huge number of low quality systems, thus severely damaging the reputation of an industry and providing the utility with welcoming arguments against residential rooftop solar in general.

We need solar in Nevada! We need solar in the U.S. and on our planet! We need utilities to understand the necessary changes in their business model and that they have to cooperate with the solar industry to help sustain the future of our society. Solar belongs to Nevada like dust to the desert. We can’t allow the solar industry to diminish, as it has the potential to become the biggest source of revenue to this state, providing more jobs and tax income than the entertainment industry all together. We can lead Nevada to be the power house for the entire U.S., but only if it gets the support of the political administration.

We need your help to keep solar alive in Nevada! Support us in our fight for your free choice of clean energy! Please join us and raise your voice with letters to the PUCN, media, colleagues and friends to help preserve net metering in our state!

We know you are with us. We count on you. Thank you for your support!

Frank Rieger

CEO, Sol-Up USA, LLC