Are Solar Roof Top Panels in Your Future?

somersett UnitedIf homeowners want to be environmentally conscious by installing roof top solar panels to generate their own electricity this is all well and good. However, most non solar customers do not want to pay more for their electricity as a result of Utilities losing revenue due to mandated financial credits extended to their solar power customers.  Nor do most potential solar power customers want to engage in such if it does not make economic sense.  It appears that both cannot be accommodated.

Currently Nevada Energy is required to pay (i.e., the Net Metering Rate) solar power customers for whatever electricity they generate back into the local grid.  Sounds like a good deal, generate more electricity than you can use and get paid for it.  However, in Nevada there was a cap in place on how many customers could participate in the Net Metering program. With the growth in roof top solar panel use, this cap will soon be reached.  Therefore, solar panel providers and environmentalists, argued for an increase in the cap. However, Nevada Energy contends that increasing the Net Metering cap is problematic, because they still have to maintain all the costs associated with maintaining the entire electrical grid. These costs along with the loss of revenue from Net Metering customers must, therefore, be passed on to non-solar customers in the form of increased rates. This being unfair to their non-solar customers.

Understandably, the Nevada roof top solar panel providers and Nevada Energy were at loggerheads over a solution. The solar panel providers lobbying for an increased customer participation cap, no decrease in the Net Metering rates paid to solar customers and no increase in customer service rates. They argue that without such, the existing cap would soon be reached, sales will drop and many providers will have no choice but to leave Nevada, resulting in significant job loss (they predict 6,000).  The Utility arguing that the economics of such is not plausible without increasing non-solar customer rates.

Much to the dismay of the solar panel providers, the Nevada State Legislature did not act on increasing the Net Metering participation cap, which left it essentially the same and deferred to the Nevada PUC to come up with a new Net Metering policy. In late December 2015, the PUC issued a new policy effectively decreasing the rate paid to roof top solar customers for the electricity they export to the grid while increasing fixed service fees, which escalate over time. This action has caused solar panel providers Sunrun, SolarCity and Vivian to announce they will shut down their Nevada operations under the premise that the changes will lower net metering compensation to the point where roof top solar no longer makes economic sense.

Details on the new Net Metering rates may be obtained from the following Las Vegas Review Journal link:

Obviously a complex issue, the pros and cons of which are arguable.  However, it does raise the following questions:

  1. Do most roof top solar panel customers do it for environmental purposes or financial incentive?
  2. With the increase in Utility wind and solar farms have Net Metering programs outlived their usefulness?
  3. Should individual solar panel homeowners be in the electrical grid producing business requiring Utilities to purchase their excess generation?
  4. To what extent should non-solar power customers subsidize solar power customers? 


4 thoughts on “Are Solar Roof Top Panels in Your Future?

  1. Seems to me this action by NV Energy and the PUC should not be any surprise to anyone. Warren Buffet invested in NV Energy and expects to make money on his investment.

    NV Energy makes money by selling energy. Solar can provide electricity for individual houses. So not considering anything about selling excess electricity from the home back to NV Energy, if say 20% of homes implemented solar, that could mean a 20% reduction in income for NV Energy.

    So it is easy to conclude that regardless of any public statements that NV Energy supports non traditional use of energy sources, solar is a direct threat to NV Energy earnings. It is easy to conclude that they along with Warren Buffet will do all they can to be sure that regulators and legislators know that their future will be impacted locally if the support the growth of solar implementations.

    Solar energy costs currently are about equal to those available from NV Energy but do require a fairly hefty capital investment up front. The local and federal incentives provided the opportunity of solar companies to fund the capital investments to get residential implementation moving. Removal of the incentives and changing support from regulators makes it difficult for these companies to continue to deploy residential services.

    Solar can still be a viable choice for homeowners if they can handle the up front investment. It will take 10 to 15 years to get any return on that investment since energy costs are fundamentally pretty inexpensive. Solar is really a good investment for some rural agriculture situations where energy costs are higher and use is above average.

    But the bottom line is that NV Energy will do all they can to support alternative energy publicly while at the same time doing all they can to prevent its implementation out of view of the public. Would you expect anything other than this from companies whose primary objective is to make a profit for the delivery of their services?

    1. Terry

      The issue is not about NV Energy & Warren Buffet making money…it is about them investing on behalf of all in NV in burning more Carbon. Thus adding to the approaching calamity caused by GHG’s.

      No more Carbon should be burnt, no more new Carbon consuming generating stations… avoid building it is … SO SIMPLE –

      they should not be cutting off their opportunity to add more Solar and Wind power to the NV grid!!!

      (we pay 11 cents/KWH – it costs NV ENergy about 5 cents/KWH to generate electricity from CARBON – natiural gas, coal etc.)

      In fairness to NV Energy – they should not be paying anyone who generates Carbon free energy much more than their actual current carbon based production costs.

      At 400 ppm CO2 we are probably past the tipping point to prevent dramatic climate change…

      NV Energy should be doing what Solar City (and others) were doing in putting their new generation capacity into roof-top solar array leasing and building wind farms. NV Energy’s Billion $ investment to build this new Plant to burn Carbon could be better spent by investing in an alternative carbon free programs.

      They should take a leaf from PG&E in California who are now doing just this, in response to competition and a civic/planet minded PUC!.

  2. Personally, I believe the whole residential Net-Metering program should be scrapped. It is obvious that the vast majority of those participating are doing so for economic rather than environmental reasons, otherwise why are the Solar Roof suppliers exiting the Nevada market. I do not see the benefit in rewarding solar roof customers with financial incentives or subsidies at the expense of others. Especially given that most cannot afford the installation costs. For those who really have an environmental concern and want to install solar panels, I applaud them, but let them do so at their own expense.

    The bottom line here is that if we are really concerned about carbon emissions, this is better accomplished at the Electrical Utility level employing alternative energy sources, where everyone pays the same price for their electricity, not to mention a more significant impact on reducing carbon emissions. In this regard I would suggest Nuclear Power. No pollutant emissions and no solar or wind farm eyesores dotting the countryside. Have you ever noticed that half the windmills in a wind farm never seem to be rotating? Anyone have an explanation for this?

    Eliminating carbon emissions is an admirable objective, but let’s not over react here with more government regulations, taxes or subsidies, we all know this seldom works for the benefit of all. Additionally, the argument that carbon emissions are the primary cause for so-called “global warming” (renamed “Climate Change” by the world order) has not really been proven. I would suggest that it is insignificant to what “Mother Nature” has in store for us as our planet goes through its environmental stages. If we really want to reduce human impact on the environment, I contend that population control would provide much greater results.

    As regards our Somersett Community, would one really like to see a smattering of solar panels all over the rooftops? Or windmills for that matter? We are an urban not a rural area and the electrical grid works just fine. For those calling for installation of solar heaters for TCTC swimming pools, I would say OK, but only if it makes economic sense.

    1. Jim

      I take exception to your third paragraph…There is no doubt whatsoever, that the continual increase in CHG’s (CO2 now over 400 ppm) basically from human activity, will lead to dramatic changes in our small planet’s climate. The evidence gathered so far shows that beyond any doubt that we will not like the “new order”. 2015 was the hottest ever, and expectations are that 2016 will be hotter still. There is evidence from the past that the global temperature can rise nearly 1C per year in a 10 -15 year time span. So waiting as you suggest is not an option.

      I understand your comments about Solar City building providing sun-power to the NV grid to make money…but that is a disruptive business approach…why aren’t NV Energy competing with them by leasing solar panels to their customers? PG&E were not allowed by government regulators to shut down Solar City in CA as they have been here. They decided to compete, offering the homeowners, business owners choice – here the regulators have done their job!

      There is no reason for anyone to invest in new Carbon burning generating facilities, when solar panels, wind farms, more geothermal, yes and even nuclear can provide us with enough energy to thrive. The State of NV is in denial as to the serious natuire of GHG emissions threatening our way of life and our children’s future. Shame on them!

      I am glad to see that you “applaud” my altruistic efforts – we have installed 2 solar systems in Somersett…because we are concerned about the future of Somertsett, Reno and the planet. The US tax credits (still available) are always nice and everyone should take advantage of them. Without any contributions from NV Energy – my first install (2008) will pay for itself in 25 years – my second (a lot, lot less expensive (70%)) will pay for itself in 10 years.

      Taking up your comment on “nuclear” being a future clean energy source. A giant tokomak based fusion reactor is being built in France – which will genreate plasma by 2020 and hopefully power to the grid by 2030. To continue operating the nuclear power stations – we really need a safe way to dispose oif the waste – and I believe that Yucca Mountain should commissioned as a nuclear repository as soon as possible (after Harry Reid?).

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