Inquiry Triggered By Sweeping “Christmas Bait and Switch” Decision to Wipe Out Solar Jobs and Savings
Citizen outrage is building in Nevada in the wake of the sweeping “Christmas Bait-and-Switch” decision that the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUC) made on Wednesday, December 23. The vote increases the monthly fee for residential solar customers and lowers compensation for excess electricity that is sold back to the utility.
The ruling effectively ends the fast-growing rooftop solar business in Nevada, will cost an estimated 5,000 people their jobs, and it moves the financial goal posts for 12,000-18,000 existing solar customers. Those homeowners will receive a fraction of the returns they were effectively promised by the PUC when they leased their solar systems.
Newly installed PUC Chairman Paul Thomsen, who voted for the new solar rate tariff, was appointed by Governor Brian Sandoval approximately eight weeks before the decision came down.
Overwhelming majorities of Nevada citizens support residential solar and renewable energy, including 75% who support government promotion of renewable energy, 70% who want Nevada to promote renewable energy more, and greater than 90% that feel that customers should have access to rooftop solar.
We began our investigation in Nevada last year by obtaining and reviewing Commissioner David Noble’s public records that were provided to us. As with several other state commissions, this effort to enforce public access to public records has been met with evasion and foot-dragging. Questions into Noble’s motivations are ongoing.
But the Christmas Bait and Switch decision takes things to a very different level. It is sweeping, directly costing up to 23,000 Nevadans’ money and jobs. It clashes with overwhelming public opinion in the state. It puts Nevada out of the race for solar-driven economic growth in the sunniest state in the country. It is being challenged by current and past state consumer protection officials. And it ignored the Commission’s own report (which found that net metering benefits all Nevadans).
What’s PUC Chair’s Real Story?
It’s vital that the public understands how the Christmas Bait and Switch decision happened. That’s why Checks and Balances Project is requesting all of Commission Chairman Paul Thomsen’s public records and communications with NV Energy representatives and lobbyists.
The citizens of Nevada deserve to know more about who was talking to the newly installed Chairman before he oversaw this controversial decision.
You can read our records request HERE.
Evlondo Cooper is a senior fellow with Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.