Know Why Solar Power is Possible in Nevada? The Heroism of Brian Sandoval

NV Solar Policy
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Nevada solar: Why and How Sandoval Made it Happen

As the winds of change catch the world by storm, many have tried to step in the way of renewable energy, solar in particular. Change, in general, causes commotion no matter whether it’s for better or worse. But when this change disturbs multi-billion dollar companies and power-holding entities, opposition is commonplace.

Solar has been around much longer than most in the fossil fuel industry would like, but the public is beginning to side with solar companies. Nevada’s very own, Brian Sandoval, is one of the politicians behind this positive movement.

In December of 2015, NV Energy put up barriers to the progress of solar power in Reno, Las Vegas, and other major Nevada cities. The shocking part was that when NV Energy got the PUC to agree to their new net metering terms, it didn’t just make solar unattractive. The PUC changes also forced existing solar customers to go back to nonrenewable energy.

Although it was one with numerous unintended consequences, this decision hurt everyone.

Sandoval and NV Solar Power Changes Save the Day

Because lawmakers handed this decision to the PUC, Sandoval could not get involved. Although it took two years for Brian Sandoval to make changes from day one, he made his opinion known and fought hard for solar without losing sight of the goal or getting discouraged by the difficulties he faced.

Three Solar-related Bills Written into Law

In February of 2016, Sandoval ordered a task force to re-evaluate renewable energy. Their task was to recommend policies that would promote renewable energy in Nevada, such as solar energy.

In June of 2017, nearly one year later, Sandoval signed three pro-solar bills into law. 

  • Assembly Bill 405 reinstated fair and favorable net metering policy for solar-powered homes from Reno to Carson City and Las Vegas. This bill also put in place important protections for residential solar customers.
  • Senate Bill 146 implemented more regulations on distributed resource plans presented by utilities. These plans proposed increases to their supply of electricity or decrease demand. The bill also increased the time the PUC has to make revisions and approve these plans.
  • Senate Bill 150 requires Nevada PUC to make yearly renewable energy goals, which solar power can help facilitate. This bill instills a future that promotes renewable energy.

Three Other Energy Bills Sandoval Approved

Three other bills were later also signed into law. 

  • Assembly Bill 223 has directed five percent of efficiency program spending to low-income programs.
  • Senate Bill 204 has required utilities to look into the need for energy storage. 
  • Lastly, Senate Bill 65 mandates Nevada PUC make energy resources that reduce cost and demand a priority. 

Sandoval also showed his support of battery backup.

Sandoval Beliefs: What Lead to His Heroic Acts?

News reports make it seem like the people’s upheaval over the 2015 PUC decision is what caused these changes, but was it? As a moderate Republican, Sandoval does and has views that dip into both parties. Although his desire to support the people may have been part of it, he also has a past of making radical changes on both sides of the political spectrum.

Sandoval’s Success As Nevada’s Governor – A Major Success for Nevada Solar Power

The majority of Sandoval’s work has been to protect people’s rights and provide jobs to Nevadans. He has worked with the school districts to get rid of tenure, creating an environment where the best teachers can make a difference, and those who’ve lost their ambition don’t become too comfortable.

As Governor, he has worked to increase healthcare coverage and support veterans. Sandoval has also changed Nevada’s approach to economic development. These changes have brought new companies to the state creating job opportunities.

In 2014, Sandoval gave tax breaks and subsidies to Tesla. In exchange, they built their battery factory in Nevada. This deal was a large part of Sandoval’s plan to bring jobs to Nevada, and it worked marvelously.

As the counterpart to battery backup and the provider of thousands of jobs in Nevada, solar makes sense. With Sandoval’s goals in mind, his decision to support solar seems like a given.

What these Solar Changes Mean for Nevadans

Sandoval’s changes have made solar a viable option for homeowners. The above legislation has allowed solar the potential to grow again.

A Closer Look at Nevada’s New Net Metering Policy

Although all these laws affect solar, Assembly Bill 405 has had the largest impact. This bill reinstated net metering.

Depending on when the utility customer applied for solar, customers now get between 95 and 75 percent of the retail price for their net excess energy generation. To accommodate NV Energy, and wean solar off incentives, this rate decreased by seven percent for every 80 megawatts until it reached 75 percent in 2020.

Is There a Chance Of Another Bait and Switch? We Wouldn’t Count on It

Given Nevada’s recent history, concern over whether this is a lasting option is valid. Thankfully AB 405 also has protective measures for solar customers. Once signed up for residential solar in Reno or Carson City, you will get that rate for the next 20 years. That means that for roughly the life of the solar array, you will receive the same rates. Solar customers are also no longer considered a different class by NV utility companies, meaning utilities now have to charge Nevadans at the same rate they charge their other customers.

All Nevada solar customers now also have the right to self-generate via solar power, meaning customers don’t have to pay for the energy they are no longer taking off the grid. If you get battery backup, this can become extremely advantageous.

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