After watching two rooftop solar installers pull up stakes in the state and being named in upcoming lawsuits, Paul Thomsen, head of the Nevada PUC, has defended the regulatory agency’s recent net metering decisions, stating he sees a solid future for clean energy growth.
His involvement in debates like those which took place in Arizona and Hawaii, has concerned challenges from power providers — in this case, NV Energy — to scale back the existing retail rate net metering program. NV Energy contended it shifted costs to non-solar customers, while rooftop solar companies reaped the benefits of the incentive.
As reported by UtilityDIVE, Thomsen testified last summer as the head of Sandoval’s Office of Energy in favor of a bill that directed the NPUC to come up with a successor to the net metering program which could satisfy both sides.
In September, Governor Sandoval named him to head the NPUC, a move lauded by solar advocates, based on Thomsen’s background in renewable energy,
“When the governor asks you to do the job, you do your duty,” Thomsen, who came to the political arena with a background in geothermal energy, told UtilityDIVE. “With my kind of independent power background, I was able to get to speed very quickly.”
Getting to speed, however, was not viewed favorably by Nevada’s rooftop solar advocates, especially those who had benefitted from the state’s existing net metering policy. In December, NPUC regulators issued a decision rolling back net metering rates for both existing and new solar systems and did not factor in a “grandfathering” provision for existing rooftop solar customers.
As for a clean energy vision, in March, Sandoval convened a task force to develop a long-term plan for clean energy in the state, and a petition for a ballot measure protesting the new net metering rates is circulating. Thomsen sees a positive future for clean energy in the state in spite of the existing net metering conflict.
“Just relying on large subsidies to keep a sector growing isn’t a success,” he said. “ As we see prices change and innovation adopted, we want to get to place where solar can be developed and implemented to the utility model without a large cost shift or subsidy.”
Nevada’s renewable energy future will involve change as a driver
Thomsen has stated he sees an opening for Nevada to tackle opportunities posed by its vast amounts of renewable resources and become a leader in the sector.
“To be perfectly blunt, we’re going to continue to see rooftop solar developed in Nevada,” Thomsen said. “We might see it developed in a slightly different model … and [need] to do a closer evaluation of which rooftops that provides the best. We’re going to see a good bit of energy storage, and I hope what we’re looking for in [an upcoming integrated resource plan] what does that hybrid design look like and how we can implement that moving forward.”
We shall be following the development of clean energy in this state, paying particularly close attention to the pace at which it is occurring, following the diminished number of rooftop solar installations, sans the original fiscal incentives.
Image: Lake Tahoe via Shutterstock