AB 405 aims to revive state solar power industry | nnbw.com

AB 405 aims to revive state solar power industry

A group of men working on solar panelling.The solar power industry was hit hard the past couple of years, but new legislation is expected to revive the industry.

Governor Sandoval on June 15 approved Assembly bill 405.

A bill to revive the solar power industry in the Silver State passed both houses of the Legislature and, as of press time, awaited the governor's attention.

Assembly Bill 405 will allow rooftop solar customers to be reimbursed for excess electricity generation from their solar systems at 95 percent of the retail electricity rate.

It also includes a "Solar Bill of Rights" prevision reinstating net metering through a tiered approach that calculates the export rate of rooftop solar installation throughout the state. The four tiers will have credit rates decrease by 7 percent increments for every 80 megawatts of rooftop solar generation deployed all the way to 75 percent of the retail rate.

Solar customers who use net metered systems can lock in solar rates for at least the next 20 years, even if regulations change.

The bill passed through the Senate and was sent to Gov. Brian Sandoval's desk early last week. As of last press time Thursday he had yet to sign the bill into law.

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With the passage of AB 405, Jessica Scott, Interior West director for Vote Solar, an advocacy group that promotes solar power throughout the United States, is confident the bill will become law.

Travis Miller, director of the Great Basin Solar Coalition, an alliance of stakeholders from northern Nevada that represent the state solar industry, said in press release sent to NNBW: "Consumers will now be effectively grandfathered into the rate structure they originally enrolled in for the life of their system. In conjunction with ensuring appropriate consumer disclosures, this bill creates the stability required for Nevadans to make educated investments in clean energy solutions."

Two years ago, the Public Utilities Commission reduced net metering rates, virtually ending such programs across Nevada, resulting in job losses in the solar industry.

According to information provided by RenewNV, a renewable energy advocacy group, Nevada lost 2,500 solar-related jobs in the state and forced many solar power companies to either go out of business, scaled back on operations or move out of the state, as a result of the regulatory changes that went passed in 2015 and went into effect in 2016.

"I would expect most or all of the companies in the industry, including those small to mid-sized companies to come back," Scott said in a phone interview with NNBW, also mentioning that existing companies in the state are ramping up business in anticipation of AB 405.

Scott explained there was minor disagreements among public utility companies and renewable energy advocacy groups on the value of excess solar energy that had the potential of preventing passage of AB 405.

The public utility NV Energy could not be reached by press time for comment on passage of the bill.

The expected enactment of AB 405 also comes as a relief to solar power companies operating in the state, who were effected by previous regulations.

Sunworks, headquartered in California with a presence in northern Nevada, was one of the few solar power companies to persevere.

"We are pleased with the passage of the revised bill," said Casey Coffman, Sunworks regional vice president of sales in a press release provided by Sunworks. "We believe the bill provides greater transparency for consumers and businesses and will enhance Nevada's solar industry through a sensible rate structure and will lead to accelerated growth in solar-related jobs."

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