Nevada Governor Signs Bill To Revive Rooftop Solar Market
With broad support from state legislators and solar advocates, Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-Nev., has signed into law a bill to almost fully restore net energy metering (NEM) in Nevada. The legislation, A.B.405, is expected to revive the state’s struggling rooftop solar market.
In late 2015, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) ruled to significantly reduce NEM buyback rates. Over 2,500 solar jobs were reportedly lost due to the decision, which had caused several installers to leave the state. Although the PUCN eventually grandfathered in pre-existing rooftop solar customers, solar advocates had been fighting to restore NEM for all new customers for about a year-and-a-half.
As a welcome compromise, A.B.405 will reinstate NEM compensation for new rooftop solar customers at 95% of the retail rate. The NEM credit available to future customers will gradually decline in tiers, decreasing each time 80 MW of rooftop solar is added, before settling at 75% of the retail rate in the final tier. Solar customers will also be able to lock in their rate levels for 20 years, providing long-term certainty.
The legislation, which overwhelmingly passed the Nevada State Assembly and unanimously passed the Senate, also includes consumer protection measures. During a signing ceremony at a Tesla facility, Sandoval sat at a table with a top fashioned from a solar panel. According to a Bloomberg report, the governor said, “This bill restores the rooftop solar industry in Nevada by making sure rooftop solar owners are fairly credited for the clean energy they produce.”
Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, says, “This law will give homeowners and businesses who may have wanted to go solar the assurances they sought, and we expect strong solar growth and jobs to follow.”
In fact, after passage of A.B.405, national players Sunrun, Vivint Solar and Tesla, SolarCity’s parent company, have all announced plans to re-enter the rooftop solar market in Nevada.
Lynn Jurich, CEO and co-founder of Sunrun, says, “The near-unanimous bipartisan support for legislation to reinstate net metering and establish a bill of rights for solar customers is a reflection of overwhelming public demand for affordable, clean energy options. Thanks to the hard work of Governor Sandoval and Nevada state legislators, we can now say with confidence that Sunrun is coming back to Nevada.”
David Bywater, CEO of Vivint Solar, adds, “This bill demonstrates the power of building consensus across stakeholders to find a win-win-win solution for the residential solar industry, utilities and Nevada consumers.” According to the company, Vivint expects to create about 100 jobs once it fully relaunches in the state.
Nevada-based solar companies, including Robco Electric, Sol-Up USA and Radiant Solar Solutions, have also praised A.B.405 and the return of higher NEM rates.
“Sol-Up USA greatly appreciates solar compensation coming back to Las Vegas and Nevada, ending two years of dire straits for the solar industry and its employees,” says Frank Rieger, CEO of Sol-Up USA.
Kevin Romney, general manager of Radiant Solar Solutions, says, “This bill will allow us to hire many individuals as Radiant Solar seeks to help Nevadans in their quest for cleaner, cheaper energy independence.”
A.B.405 is among a host of clean energy bills Nevada lawmakers passed during their 2017 legislative session. For example, Sandoval also signed S.B.204, which orders the PUCN to consider whether it’s “in the public interest” for state utilities to buy energy storage, and S.B.145, which creates the Solar Energy Systems Incentive Program to spur storage adoption.
However, environmental and renewable energy advocates have expressed disappointment with the governor’s decision to veto a bill to boost Nevada’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) and another to establish a new community solar program.
A.B.206 would have increased Nevada’s current 25% by 2025 RPS to 40% by 2030. In his veto letter, Sandoval reiterates his commitment to clean energy and notes he is “fully aware” that A.B.206 is “very popular”; nonetheless, he cites worries about the potential effects of an increased RPS on ratepayers and companies, among other concerns, and suggests a need for further research, especially in light of the likely future establishment of an Energy Choice Initiative.
In addition, he says that “although the promise of A.B.206 is commendable, its adoption is premature in the face of evolving energy policy in Nevada.”
Sandoval notes in the letter that he will direct a Committee on Energy Choice to review the effects of a possible RPS increase and make recommendations to him in the future legislative session.
In a statement, Elspeth DiMarzio, the Sierra Club’s campaign representative in Nevada, argues, “The governor’s veto of A.B.206 denies the support we have seen from Nevada voters, the bipartisan efforts in the Nevada legislature, the faith community, and the endorsements of a range of businesses, including eBay, MGM Resorts, and Zappos. A stronger commitment to the clean energy economy would have attracted investment in the state’s abundant renewable energy potential, created quality jobs, and guaranteed cleaner air and water for future generations.”
Notably, major utility company NV Energy has surpassed Nevada’s current RPS targets seven years in a row, and the company recently issued a call for 50 MW of new renewable energy resources.
Furthermore, Sandoval vetoed S.B.392, a bill that would have created a statewide community solar program in Nevada. S.B.392 also garnered widespread support among renewable energy advocates, but in his veto letter, Sandoval cites some similar concerns he raised regarding the RPS bill, namely the timing and the potential cost and market impacts, among other reasons.
In his veto letter, Sandoval also notes uncertainty about how the community solar bill might have affected A.B.405, the NEM bill he signed. According to Sandoval, “S.B.392 attempts to link itself to A.B.405 by requiring the solar energy credits to be the same for both rooftop solar and community solar gardens. Although I am confident that the system set up by A.B.405 will be beneficial to Nevada and its solar energy economy, it is unclear whether these bills are compatible or conflicting.”
Sandoval states he will direct the aforementioned Committee on Energy Choice to study community solar gardens, as well.
In a statement, Nevada State Sen. Mo Dennis, bill sponsor of S.B.392, says, “I brought the idea of community solar gardens to the legislature this year to allow those who aren’t fortunate enough to own a home or choose to live in multifamily units the ability to go solar. Going solar allows citizens the ability to choose the source of their electricity and will provide important bill savings to the customers who need it most. With the veto of S.B.392, we continue to limit our citizens’ ability to invest in clean renewable energy. I am disappointed that many of my constituents will continue to be prevented from participating in the vibrant and growing solar economy simply because they do not own their home.”
Jeff Cramer, executive director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access, calls the veto “a real loss for Nevada and its citizens.”
Nonetheless, Cramer says, “We look forward to continuing the conversation in Nevada: We have seen a clear demonstration that the public and the legislature want a community solar program for the state, and we will continue to work to provide opportunities for everyone to receive the benefits of solar.”
Jessica Scott, Interior West director at nonprofit Vote Solar, comments, “While the governor’s decision is a missed opportunity to invite new jobs and investments in the Silver State, we’re pleased that other bills have been approved that will begin to rebuild Nevada’s clean energy economy.”
– Joseph Bebon
New York State Makes Big Renewable Energy Push
In light of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has announced the Clean Climate Careers initiative, a multi-pronged strategy to grow the state’s clean energy economy and prepare citizens for careers in the industry. Importantly, the initiative also includes a major request for proposals (RFP) and a whopping $1.5 billion investment in renewable energy projects.
In partnership with Climate Jobs NY and the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Cuomo’s initiative focuses on accelerating energy efficiency and renewable energy growth to make New York a magnet for new energy technologies and creating 40,000 good-paying clean energy jobs by 2020, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
As part of the first phase of the Clean Climate Careers initiative, New York State will make an investment of up to $1.5 billion in major renewable energy projects, including wind and solar, and significantly expand energy efficiency and solar installations at public buildings. According to the governor, the investment will result in an additional 2.5 million MWh of electricity a year, representing the largest clean energy procurement by a state in U.S. history.
“As the federal government abdicates its responsibility to address climate change – at the expense of our environment and economy – New York is leading the nation in advancing a clean energy future,” Cuomo says.
As part of the Clean Climate Careers initiative, the state is issuing RFPs for developers to build renewable energy projects that will generate 2.5 million MWh of electricity a year – enough to power approximately 350,000 homes. Combined, the RFPs are the first in a series of major procurements and are expected to result in the development of 40 to 60 large-scale renewable energy projects by 2022 under the state’s 50% by 2030 clean energy standard.
Complementary solicitations by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) will invest up to $1.5 billion in wind, solar, small- and large-scale hydro, fuel cell, and other technologies. The NYSERDA solicitation will procure 1.5 million MWh of electricity from renewable energy sources, and the NYPA solicitation will procure an additional 1 million MWh.
In addition, NYPA has established a new partnership with a consortium of banks that will – for the first time ever through NYPA – enable municipalities to access low-cost capital from commercial banks to finance energy efficiency and solar projects, the release says. With this expanded investment, NYPA will conduct 1,000 energy efficiency and solar audits for municipalities and school districts by 2020 to help support investments. The initiative will be available to local governments and municipalities.
NYPA will also install more than 125 MW of solar capacity on schools and other public buildings by 2020, achieving a 300% increase in distributed solar projects at public facilities statewide.
Further, as part of the initiative, Cuomo has committed $15 million to educators and trainers who partner with the clean energy industry and unions to offer training and apprenticeship opportunities.
The governor also announced a new Environmental Justice and Just Transition Working Group, which will focus, in part, on developing policies and programs to ensure a “just transition” to a green and clean energy future, the release explains.
Additionally, Cuomo signed an executive order to commit New York to uphold the standards set forth in the Paris Accord and announced a U.S. Climate Alliance – along with California Gov. Jerry Brown and Washington State Gov. Jay R. Inslee – to convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change.
“Now is the time for renewable energy,” comments Gil C. Quiniones, president and CEO of NYPA. “Through this sweeping investment in clean and green energy projects and jobs, we are aggressively moving closer toward Gov. Cuomo’s clean energy standard and pushing forward as a national leader. Through the largest-ever call for large-scale renewable projects; ramping up our investment in energy efficiency; and expanding use of renewable technologies, including solar, in schools and public buildings, we are spearheading transformative change throughout the industry. We are also ensuring that New York state’s energy mix is viable and affordable now and into the future.”
Santa Barbara Commits To 100% Renewables
Santa Barbara, Calif., has become the 30th city in the country to officially commit to transition to 100% renewable energy, according to the Sierra Club.
The Santa Barbara City Council recently approved a measure that establishes a community-wide goal of switching to 100% renewable energy by 2030. The resolution also commits the city to transition all municipal buildings and operations to 50% clean energy by 2020.
According to the Sierra Club, Santa Barbara joins other California cities, including San Diego, San Francisco, South Lake Tahoe, Del Mar and Palo Alto, that have made 100% renewable energy commitments.
“President Trump may be withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, but cities are stepping up and re-committing to adopt, honor and uphold the Paris climate goals,” says Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider. “I’m proud that Santa Barbara just adopted a 100 percent renewable energy goal and is joining other cities across the nation leading the way on clean energy at the local level.”
“We salute Santa Barbara for their leadership on 100 percent clean energy,” says Katie Davis, chair of the Sierra Club’s Santa Barbara Group. “To meet our international climate goals, we must transition away from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. Moving to 100 percent renewable energy isn’t just the right thing to do for our climate; it’s the smart thing to do for our local economy.”
Just days before Santa Barbara’s decision, the Portland, Ore., City Council and Multnomah County Commission also committed to transition all of Portland and Multnomah County to 100% renewable energy by 2050. According to the Sierra Club, Portland represents the first city in the Northwest to establish this goal, and Multnomah County is the first county in the U.S. to commit to transition entirely to renewable energy.
“In order to protect our environment and our communities from the threat posed by the Trump administration’s climate policies, local and state jurisdictions must step forward to make up the difference when crafting environmental policy,” says Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson. “I am proud of the work we have done engaging stakeholders and the public on this important commitment. We must continue to lead the way.”