Obama vs Utility That’s Trying To Kill Rooftop Solar

Like him or not, President Obama stood up for Solar last week.

The Nevada public utility commission was working on a proposal to implement huge rate increases on solar customers.  That proposal is over 1,000 pages long and maybe they think they can get it passed before anyone can read it.

Luckily it is a political plus to be pro-solar and so at the recent convention in Las Vegas, President Obama announced several initiatives to help finance renewable energy including solar.

Pres ObamaThe current policy pays solar customers at market rate for the energy they put back on the grid.  But solar installers were left in limbo when the utilities submitted the policy change based on too many people going solar.  Too much success, too fast, was challenging the utility companies.

On the one hand, President Obama announced a slew of new incentives and financing mechanisms for renewable energy and efficiency Monday at the 8th annual Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, hosted by solar champion Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV).

But he also seemed to be taking the local utility to task during the speech.

“We see the trend lines. We see where technology is taking us. We see where consumers want to go,” Obama said Monday. “That, let’s be honest, has some fossil fuel interests pretty nervous, to the point where they are trying to fight renewable energy.”

Chandler Sherman, a spokesperson for SolarCity said the proposal includes nine new fees, taxes, and charges, which are often difficult for residential customers to understand. “They are really just designed to make it harder for people to go solar,” she said.

Among the additions is a nearly $14 per kilowatt hour (kWh) demand charge. That means that a customer’s peak demand during the month would be multiplied by $14 and added to the electricity bill, which currently just calculates a customer’s usage. The surcharge would only apply to solar customers.

“If your teenage kid plugs his guitar into the garage, you’re screwed,” Will Craven, a spokesperson for the Alliance for Solar Choice, a rooftop solar industry advocacy group, told ThinkProgress.

Sara Birmingham from the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) applauded the president’s announcements, but cautioned that federal policies will only go so far without on the ground reinforcement.

Utilities “are trying to undermine competition in the marketplace,” he said. “They are trying to fight renewable energy.”

The president did not mention NV Energy by name — instead calling out several utilities around the country that have put pro-solar policies in place and are working to figure out how to transition the electricity industry from a simple provider to an integrated system of distribution.

UPDATE AUG 27, 2015 4:59 PM

The Nevada Public Service Commission voted Wednesday to extend the current net metering rules through the end of the year.