Vivint Solar has put the brakes on its operations in Nevada following an unsuccessful attempt by campaigners to extend the state’s cap on net metered residential PV installations.
Nevada could reach 235MW of net metered PV on household rooftops as early as the end of August, at which point the existing programme will close. According to local reports, the state’s regulator, the Public Utilities’ Commission, which said it could not authorise extending the cap as it stands, is expected to meet on 21 August to set interim rates to carry on the programme and could put them into practise on 26 August.
Meanwhile NV Energy, a major utility in the state, proposed its own rule changes towards the end of July that it said could prolong the life of the state’s residential solar industry – but this would involve setting standard net metering rates along with optional time of use charging. Both options would factor in a monthly service charge, demand charge and “energy charge”. Previous attempts by utilities in other parts of the US to levy fixed charges on net metered systems have met with opposition from solar industry figures and lobby groups.
While it seems likely that residential solar will continue in some form in the state, the uncertainty appears to have proved enough of a deterrent that Vivint Solar, one of the country’s biggest residential installers, will suspend its activities there.
Vivint Solar, due to change hands at the end of the year when an acquisition by SunEdison and its yieldco Terraform Power closes, only announced its expansion into Nevada in early July. In Vivint’s quarterly 10-Q form report filed with the US Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) on Tuesday, the company said that it would suspend its activities there until the future of the popular support scheme has been secured.
“Subsequent to entering Nevada, the available net metering was exhausted. As a result, we have suspended operations in Nevada pending a reformation to the availability of net metering within the state,” the company said.
In a further section, the company pointed out “we rely on net metering and related policies to offer competitive pricing” and said the lack of suitable policies could “significantly reduce demand for electricity from our solar energy systems”.
Advocacy group The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) was among those lobbying Nevada PUC to extend the cap. The group submitted a petition and was joined by solar industry representatives and well-wishers for a hearing that ultimately proved unsuccessful. According to a report in local news outlet Las Vegas Review Journal, PUC had not expected the cap to be reached until next year, giving it until the end of this one to set new rates.
Elsewhere in the US, several other regions are in the process of reviewing or altering net metering policy. New Jersey has just approved an extension of its existing cap, while the governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, proposed earlier this month to exempt small-scale solar from caps, hoping to further his jurisdiction’s aim of installing 1,600MW of PV in the state by 2020.
Other states have caps too, but some have far more capacity left to go than others. In California, the three main investor owned utilities (IOUs) have net metering caps of 607MW for San Diego Gas & Electric, 2,240MW for Southern California Edison and 2,409MW for Pacific Gas & Electric. None have reached more than 46% of those caps as yet. Additionally, when the caps are reached, a new tariff will be applied for customers that join.