Nevada Approves SolarCity’s Deal With Berkshire’s NV Energy

  • State regulators roll back fees for existing home solar users
  • NV Energy and SolarCity had reached settlement on rates

Nevada regulators have approved a deal between Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s NV Energy utility and SolarCity Corp. that will roll back rate hikes for existing rooftop solar customers.

The Nevada Public Utilities Commission voted 3-0 on Friday in favor of a settlement that will shield more than 32,000 rooftop solar customers in the state from increased fees that took effect in January. Earlier this week, NV Energy and SolarCity had asked the commission to approve an agreement that would grandfather those who signed up to use home solar prior to January under more favorable rates for 20 years.

The decision comes as states across the U.S. including Nevada are grappling with how to spur the development of clean energy sources while ensuring utilities 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.

Friday’s decision is “a step in the right direction but SolarCity and other developers need more from the regulators or legislators to have a future market in the state,” Cheryl Wilson, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence, said by phone.

SolarCity rose 2.3 percent to $17.50 at the close in New York. The company’s chief policy officer, Jon Wellinghoff, described the decision in a statement as “an important step forward for Nevada, to protect the investments thousands of Nevadans have made.”

In December, the Nevada commission voted to raise rates on all solar homes, prompting installers including SolarCity and Sunrun Inc. to stop taking new customers. 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.

Las Vegas-based NV Energy asked regulators earlier this year to put existing solar homes back onto the rates they paid before the increases started. The Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection and the staff of the commission were parties to the agreement that was approved Friday.

The decision was “fair for this set of existing net metering customers, and at the same time reinforces the clear path forward they established in February 2016 for those considering rooftop solar in the future,” NV Energy President Paul Caudill said in an e-mailed statement.

For its part, SolarCity said it plans to work with Nevada regulators on a solution that would allow households to install rooftop solar “without being punished with higher charges.”

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