Nevada to Rule on Buffett’s Utility Deal With SolarCity

Updated on
  • State regulators to vote on granfathering 32,000 solar users
  • NV Energy and SolarCity reached solar rate settlement

Nevada regulators are set to decide this week on a settlement between Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s utility, SolarCity Corp. and the state’s consumer advocate to roll back rate increases for customers who installed rooftop solar systems prior to this year.

The three-member Nevada Public Utilities Commission has scheduled a vote on the deal for Sept. 16, according to a posting on the commission’s website. Berkshire’s NV Energy Inc. and SolarCity submitted Monday a proposal to regulators that would shield more than 32,000 rooftop solar customers from increases that took effect in January. The agreement also included commission staff and the state’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The settlement comes as states across the U.S. are grappling with how to spur the development of clean energy sources while ensuring operators can collect enough money to maintain and update their grids. Last year, NV Energy proposed increased charges and reduced payments to rooftop solar customers, saying the existing model forced non-solar customers to subsidize those who did use the green power.

Solar Rates

SolarCity, Sunrun Inc. and other solar installers stopped taking customers in the state soon after a December decision by the commission to raise rates on all solar homes. They sued after regulators denied an appeal of the ruling, and Governor Brian Sandoval, a Republican, established a task force on the issue that in May recommended existing customers be grandfathered.

NV Energy asked regulators earlier this year to put existing solar homes back onto the rates they paid before the increases started. The Las Vegas-based utility asked the PUC to grandfather those rates for as many as 20 years.

“NV Energy’s intent with its grandfathering proposal was to offer a solution for customers who installed or had valid applications to install rooftop solar systems by December 31, 2015, in the most efficient and timely manner,” Jennifer Schuricht, a spokeswoman for NV Energy, said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday. “We appreciate all parties coming together to expedite the process on behalf of our customers.”

Regulators should quickly ratify the agreement as it will provide relief to Nevada solar customers, SolarCity Chief Policy Officer Jon Wellinghoff said in a statement Tuesday.