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PUC Upholds Rate Increase; Solar Advocates Vow to Fight On

Actor Mark Ruffalo speaks to the crowd outside the Nevada Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday. (Chispa)
Actor Mark Ruffalo speaks to the crowd outside the Nevada Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday. (Chispa)
January 15, 2016

CARSON CITY, Nev. - Solar-power advocates in Nevada are vowing to keep up the fight and plotting their next move after a major defeat when the Public Utilities Commission refused to delay rate increases for solar customers.

The decision on Wednesday night came after eight hours of impassioned testimony, primarily from hundreds of homeowners who will have to pay higher power bills and from solar-industry workers who were laid off after the rate increase first passed just before Christmas.

Rudy Zamora, program director for Chispa Nevada, part of the League of Conservation Voters, said they're appealing the decision.

"We need to send a message to not only the commissioners but to Gov. (Brian) Sandoval that they're held accountable, that we have the right to continue harvesting the sun's power without them siding with the big corporations," he said.

NV Energy argued that its solar customers need to pay more so that non-solar customers aren't shouldering the bulk of the cost of infrastructure. But Chandler Sherman, spokeswoman for Solar City, said the decision unfairly makes rooftop solar more expensive and, for now, has forced the company to stop selling systems in Nevada and lay off 550 installers.

"NV Energy has an incentive to want to undermine solar, because we are competition," she said. "Solar is the first competition the monopoly utility company has ever faced in Nevada."

The appeal will be heard toward the end of February. Advocates have said they will marshal their forces to show up in great numbers at the next hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV