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Nev. Assembly panel weighs bills to restore net metering, increase RPS

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Nev. Assembly panel weighs bills to restore net metering, increase RPS

The Nevada Assembly's Commerce and Labor Committee said it will continue work on a bill that would restore net metering and change the billing formula for rooftop solar customers. NV Energy Inc. Renewable Energy Senior Vice President Pat Egan said the utility company has worked with Assembly Member Chris Brooks, chair of the committee's energy subcommittee, on Assembly Bill 270, sponsored by Brooks, Assembly Member Justin Watkins and other Assembly members. "This is not a small issue and will take us a fair amount of time to get to a final solution," Egan said.

NV Energy has proposed a "bridge" to set a price 30 days after passage of the bill that would ultimately transition to a point where market prices would prevail. Egan said NV Energy envisions issuing a request for proposals in concert with the Public Utilities Commission and the governor's Office of Energy with the aim of making solar widely available, including in low-income communities.

The Assembly has until April 25 to pass bills and send them to the Nevada Senate; the legislature meets every other year.

Hunter Stern, representing International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 1245 and 396, opposed the bill, saying that while workers lost jobs because the PUC ended net metering, the current bill is not balanced with utility interests. "Two wrongs don't make a right. We don't want the same thing to happen to the utility industry and utility workers," he said.

Solar advocates urged the bill's passage. Great Basin Solar Coalition founding board member Travis Miller said the "net billing" legislation would value energy from customer-generators based on a formula to be determined by the PUC. The formula would calculate the costs and benefits of solar and would be updated on a triannual basis, during utility general rate cases, said Miller, who is also a Sunworks Inc. NV project manager.

Consumer protection

The legislation would also eliminate the separate rate class for rooftop solar customers established by the PUC in 2016, Miller said. The same basic service charges and fees that are paid by non-solar customers would apply to solar customers as well, he said. The "value of solar" formula established by the PUC would include utility avoided costs as well as avoidance of carbon emissions and other factors and would set a minimum floor price for exports to the grid, Miller said.

The Assembly Commerce panel also considered but took no action on Assembly Bill 405, sponsored by Brooks, that would establish consumer protection provisions including requirements in contracts for the lease or purchase of solar panels and other distributed generation systems and related power purchase agreements. Minimum warranty requirements would also be part of the "renewable energy bill of rights."

Brooks said the measure would provide consumer protections against unscrupulous business and deceptive trade practices because there is no regulatory guidance for provisions in solar purchase and leasing contracts, including those extending out 20 years or more.

Brooks also presented A.B. 206, to increase the state's renewable portfolio standards for investor-owned and publicly owned utilities and large consumers who procure their own energy supplies. Brooks introduced the bill Feb. 13 and said he has since met with cooperatives, water districts and businesses and has proposed major amendments to make compliance easier for those parties in the first few years.

Nevada's current standard is 25% renewables by 2025. The bill would require each energy provider to have a retail electricity portfolio that includes a 50% renewable and energy efficiency standard by 2030. However, while the bill would also set a state 80% RPS goal by 2040, the bill would not mandate that level, he said.