Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Bring Back Solar Alliance?
The Bring Back Solar Alliance is a coalition of Nevada businesses, community organizations, not-for-profits, and over 115,000 Nevadans fighting to bring rooftop solar back to Nevada. Our goal is to overturn the Public Utilities Commission's solar rate hike and restore Nevadans’ right to invest in their own energy future without being punished by discriminatory and punitive fees.
For a list of Alliance members, visit About Us.
What are the goals of the Bring Back Solar Alliance?
The Bring Back Solar Alliance is fighting to protect the 32,000 Nevadans who have already invested in solar, and the rights of all Nevadans to have the freedom to go solar affordably in the future. The people of Nevada overwhelmingly support rooftop solar and restoring the old rules, and the Bring Back Solar Alliance will keep fighting until the will of the people is heard and rooftop solar is brought back to Nevada.
The Alliance is dedicated to working with the Public Utilities Commission, Legislators, the utility, and voters to ensure that the solar rate hike is reversed and energy choice and solar jobs are brought back to the state.
What is rooftop solar?
Rooftop solar allows Nevadans to take control of their energy bills and generate their own clean energy on their own homes. Solar customers use their own money to build mini power plants on their roofs which power their homes with clean energy, and any excess energy is sent into their communities for the utility to sell to their neighbors.
Thanks to advances in solar technology and financing, before the solar rate hike Nevadans were able to power their homes with solar energy for less than the cost of utility power.
And rooftop solar’s benefits go beyond helping customers reduce their utility bills. Rooftop solar also offers many benefits to the electricity grid, saving all customers money and leading the state to a cleaner, cheaper, more efficient electrical grid.
What does rooftop solar mean for Nevada’s economy?
Under the old solar rules, Nevada was a national leader in clean energy and solar jobs. Until the rate hike, Nevada was the top state in the country for solar jobs per capita, with over 8,700 solar jobs as of the end of 2015. Rooftop solar also brought $833 million in private investment to the state, diversifying our economy and driving growth throughout our economy.
Nevada has a tremendous solar resource and a skilled workforce, and the state should be able to harness our homegrown solar resource instead of sending our jobs and money out of state to import fossil fuels.
How did rooftop solar used to work for customers?
Consumers have a few options about how to go solar. Some consumers chose to purchase their solar panels outright. Because they power the homes with free sunlight, they get a “payback” on their investment after a number of years through savings on their utility bills. Other consumers chose to lease their panels, putting no money down and paying a monthly lease payment and a utility bill that typically add up to be less than their pre-solar utility bills. In either case, solar customers would save money on their utility bills because they generated their own power, and therefore needed to purchase less power from the utility.
What is “net metering”?
Net metering is the law in 41 states that gives solar customers fair credit for the clean energy they generate in our communities. For every dollar of clean energy solar customers send to their neighbors – energy which the utility doesn’t have to generate or transport hundreds of miles – the utility gives them a dollar of “credit” to use later.
Net metering has been the most effective policy mechanism to grow an independent solar economy and give consumers access to affordable solar energy.
What is the Public Utilities Commission’s solar rate hike?
Last December, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada placed discriminatory charges and fees on solar customers. In an unprecedented move, these higher fees were also placed on the 30,000 Nevadans who have already invested in solar.
This solar rate hike, which is being phased-in over 12 years, will more than triple solar customers’ monthly fixed charges and reduce by 75% the credit solar customers get for their clean energy -- while allowing the utility to sell that energy for a 300% profit.
This rate hike will increase the average solar customer’s bill by over 50%. That means solar customers will have to pay the utility $8,500 to $25,000 more over the life of their solar systems. In many cases, solar customers will have to pay the utility more than had they not gone solar, despite the fact that solar reduces the amount of utility power they use.
If we have to bring back solar, where did it go?
The solar rate hike made solar unaffordable. Since the solar rate hike, rooftop solar applications have fallen 99%, from 1,368 applications in December 2015 to just 15 in February 2016. Without customers, the dozens of independent solar companies in Nevada are unable to do business here and have been forced to lay off thousands of Nevada workers or send those jobs out of state.
What impact has the solar rate hike had on Nevada’s economy?
The solar rate hike has shut down the independent solar economy, costing the state thousands of jobs and driving businesses out of the state. Leading national investors have said the rate hike has had a “chilling effect” on those considering investing money in Nevada, and Governor Sandoval’s office has said that the solar rate hike has tarnished the state’s international reputation.
By reversing the solar rate hike, Nevada can restore our rightful place as a national leader in the clean energy economy.
How does rooftop solar save all customers money?
Most of our energy comes from fuel imported from out of state, burned in a power plant in the desert, and transported hundreds of miles over inefficient power lines to our homes. But there is another way: we can also power our communities with clean solar energy from rooftop power plants.
These mini power plants deliver clean energy when and where we need it most, and reduce the utility’s need to build as many expensive new power plants and power lines (which it charges customers to build). All of rooftop solar’s benefits outweigh any costs, meaning that each new rooftop solar installation actually saves every Nevadan money, whether or not they have rooftop solar.
In May, a new study co-authored by the Natural Resources Defense Council and SolarCity quantified all variables the Public Utilities Commission requested be studied. This peer-reviewed study found that Nevada’s current rooftop solar installations add $7 million in benefits to the electricity grid every year, and up to $14 million if you include the benefits of cleaner air and less pollution. In other words, rooftop solar customers actually subsidize non-solar customers’ bills.
Independent studies in Nevada and across the country have found that rooftop solar benefits all utility customers. In May, the Brookings Institution wrote that rooftop solar “net metering — contra the Nevada decision — frequently benefits all ratepayers when all costs and benefits are accounted for, which is a finding state public utility commissions, or PUCs, need to take seriously.”
For more information on how rooftop solar saves you money, please visit our Solar Benefits page.
Why does the utility claim there is a subsidy?
Nevada does not have a state-level subsidy for solar. Every independent study – including the one commissioned by the Public Utilities Commission – found that the benefits of rooftop solar outweigh the costs.
Think about what rooftop solar means: solar customers build mini power plants on their roofs, which provide clean energy to their neighbors when and where we need it most. That doesn’t cost their neighbors, or the utility, anything. Instead, more clean energy on the grid reduces costs for other Nevadans and the utility.
The Public Utilities Commission calculated only the costs of solar, without including the benefits, and made their decision based on incomplete evidence. In their December decision, the Commissioners laid out 11 variables that must be considered when determining the costs and benefits of rooftop solar, and wrote they had “insufficient time or data” to quantify 9 of the 11 variables.
A recent peer-reviewed study quantified those benefits, and found Nevada’s current rooftop solar installations provide the utility $7 million in savings every year, which saves all Nevada consumers money whether or not they have rooftop solar. Those benefits increase to $14 million per year if health and environmental benefits are accounted for.
How does the utility business model work?
The utility makes money by building new power plants and power lines, and charging its customers those costs plus an 8% after-tax profit. The utility also has a monopoly, which means it doesn’t face competition for customers and doesn’t need to innovate like a typical business.
Rooftop solar is the first time the utility has faced competition. By providing, Nevadans with an affordable alternative to NV Energy, Rooftop solar helps to save consumers money by reducing the need for the utility to build new expensive power plants and power lines – but if the utility doesn’t have to build as much, they don’t get to charge ratepayers as mu ch, which means they don’t make as much profit. That’s why the utility is fighting rooftop solar.
Other states, like New York, have come up with innovative solutions that allow the utility to make a fair profit while allowing independent solar businesses to compete.
What does “grandfathering” mean, and is it fixed yet?
The solar rate hike did not just impact people who may wish to go solar in the future, but also raised rates on the 32,000 Nevadans who have already invested in rooftop solar. Nevada leadership have stressed the importance of protecting, or “grandfathering,” existing customers on the rates they signed up for.
Governor Sandoval’s Energy Task Force took an important step forward by supporting grandfathering existing solar customers for 20 years on the rules they signed up for. These protections would apply to anyone who submitted a net metering application by December 31, 2015. Now, it’s up to the Governor and the Legislature to ensure this recommendation becomes law.
I don’t have rooftop solar. Why should I support the Bring Back Solar Alliance?
The Bring Back Solar Alliance is fighting to make solar affordable for everyone, to allow more individuals to power our state with clean energy. Whether or not you want to go solar, all Nevadans should have the ability to choose to produce their own clean energy on their own property without being punished with higher fees. And because rooftop solar saves the utility money, more rooftop solar will decrease your bills whether or not you have solar on your roof.
Is rooftop solar more expensive than big solar plants?
Rooftop solar and utility-scale solar both have their benefits, and both types of solar should be harnessed to take full advantage of Nevada’s tremendous solar resource. But comparing rooftop solar to centralized utility-scale solar is comparing apples to oranges.
Large-scale solar power purchase agreements are low, but the cost of “shipping” that energy to your house is high: it must be transported hundreds of miles over expensive power lines to our communities. By the time utility-scale solar energy reaches the consumer, it costs about the same as rooftop solar.
Rooftop solar generates energy in our communities, where we need it most, and adds additional benefits to the grid for solar- and non-solar customers alike. In Nevada, these benefits add up to over $7 million a year.