- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Nevada regulators fielded hours of arguments Monday on whether existing rooftop solar customers should be grandfathered into lower rates instead of paying higher ones approved just before the new year.

Hundreds of rooftop solar workers showed up to the Nevada Public Utilities Commission meeting and brought cards signed by rooftop solar supporters, according to KTNV (https://bit.ly/1mojnl9 ). Regulators weren’t expected to vote on the matter until Friday.

NV Energy has argued that under the old rate structure used until this year, the 98 percent of its customers who don’t have solar installations are subsidizing the 2 percent who do. The company said new rates will better reflect the declining cost of solar energy, and will account for the cost of maintaining electrical infrastructure that solar customers rely on at night or at other times their panels aren’t producing power.

NV Energy says the traditional customer base is subsidizing the average single-family home with solar panels by about $471 to $623 a year, although solar companies dispute the calculation and say net metering customers offer a net benefit to traditional customers.

Customers who bought or leased solar installations testified they did so expecting that the savings on their energy bill would pay off their capital investment in the panels. The new rates, they argue, mean it will take much longer for the installations to pay for themselves.

Rooftop solar companies including SolarCity said they have laid off hundreds of employees who sell and install panels in Nevada because their business model no longer pencils out under the new rates.

NV Energy says it warned customers that rates are subject to change, and sent written correspondence in the summer and fall telling net metering applicants that the PUC was mulling new rates that could affect them.

NV Energy last month offered possible seven timelines for carrying out grandfathering, including one that would implement a rate hike gradually over four years as regulators wanted.

After criticism from rooftop solar companies, NV Energy issued a more forceful recommendation Friday to grandfather solar users into new rates in a single step 20 years out, saying it would be perceived as more fair.

The utility company proposes grandfathering people who applied for or installed a solar system by Sept. 10, 2015, the date the state hit a legislatively approved capacity cap. About 27,000 customers fall in that category.

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