PUC ruling: Everyone must bear certain costs in a monopoly marketplace

Solar activists assemble outside Public Utilities Commission Nevada offices in Las Vegas on Feb. 8 with 55,000 signatures opposing changes in net-metering rates. (Newscom photo via IBD)

Let’s apply the logic of the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to other situations.

They say those who don’t buy as much electricity as their neighbors, because they generate their own power with solar panels are being subsidized by those neighbors who are bearing a greater portion of the fixed cost of the grid and therefore solar panel owners should pay more for the sake of fairness.

So, if you grow your own tomatoes in your backyard and only buy tomatoes between ripe crops, you should pay more for those tomatoes because your neighbors are paying for the shipping and handling of those store bought tomatoes.

If you drive a gas-sipping car, you should pay more per gallon to cover the cost of drilling, refining and transportation.

If you never get sick, you should pay more to cover the cost of building hospitals and training doctors, because you are not covering your fair share of infrastructure costs.

From each according to their means, to each according to their needs — the definition of a monopoly market.

I’ve explained it before to no avail.

On Friday the PUC voted unanimously to slash net-metering rates and treble connection fees for all solar panel owners, including those who bought and paid for them under promises that they could get a return on their investments. Suckers!

According to Investor’s Business Daily’s front page article today Sunrun executives were already planning to file suit.

“Fully 89% of Nevadans believe that the Public Utilities Commission made the wrong decision when it ended net-metering, refused to grandfather existing solar customers at their current rates and destroyed one of the fastest-growing solar sectors in the country,” a solar executive told IBD via email.

As noted here before too, the PUC did stretch out the implementation over 12 years instead of four.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, who appoints the PUC members, put out a handwringing statement bemoaning the decision, but failed to indicate he would do a damned thing about it.

“While I have respected the Commission and its deliberations by not influencing its process, the PUC did not reach the outcome I had hoped for. I remained optimistic that the Commission would find a solution that considered the economic consequences to existing rooftop solar owners. Today’s decision does not go far enough to protect their interests.

“Renewable energy development in Nevada is a priority for me and an important and evolving issue. I remain committed to providing a path for Nevada to continue to explore the potential of our vast renewable energy portfolio while ensuring Nevada has an equitable system that balances energy policy with just and reasonable utility rates. There is no greater friend to the solar industry than my Administration. In 2011, I signed legislation enacting policies to stand up the rooftop solar market. In 2013, I approved another measure that doubled the net metering cap. In 2015, I signed into law a bill that again changed the net metering cap and transferred oversight of this complex issue to the PUC. The 2015 legislation received public support from the rooftop solar industry and many other interested parties. When I signed these bills, it was my belief that the utility rates should remain constant for homeowners who installed rooftop solar systems on their homes.

“The 2015 legislation was approved by a 41-1 vote in the Nevada Assembly and a unanimous vote in the Nevada Senate. I am aware that many of our state legislators share my concern about today’s decision and I am hopeful that the Legislative Committee on Energy as well as the New Energy Task Force will bring forward thoughtful recommendations to ensure that Nevada has a stable energy policy that allows renewable energy in Nevada to continue to thrive.”

And PUC just made all that moot. Solar panel installers are leaving the state and laying off thousands of workers, after being enticed to come to Nevada with taxpayer money.

The Las Vegas Sun online quoted a 7-year-old girl who testified before the PUC Friday about her father being laid off at SolarCity.

“I’m speaking for all kids and the future of solar. Solar is our future,”Marilynn Dudley said to the commission. “My dad and a lot of other people lost their job’s because of your decision. So please PUC, make the right decision today and bring back solar to Nevada.”

Tough luck, kid.

The Reno newspaper quoted PUC Commissioner David Noble as saying in his draft order, “It appears that some small-scale (rooftop) solar vendors advertised unrealistic payback periods. The commission will not reward the bad behavior of some small-scale (rooftop) solar vendors by requiring non-(solar) ratepayers to subsidize (solar) ratepayers for longer than is necessary.”

The paper reported that regulators said it is unfair for 98 percent of utility customers to bear costs for the 2 percent who have solar systems.

Just how do they do that? Never explained.

The Review-Journal quoted a solar company employee as saying, “It’s like playing poker and then changing the cards after the hand’s been dealt.”

Protesters Friday at PUC meeting. (R-J photo)



51 comments on “PUC ruling: Everyone must bear certain costs in a monopoly marketplace

  1. Steve says:

    All your examples, Tom, do not include actually selling back to the company your so called “excess” product.

    For instance, tomatoes. Who buys all the extra ones you grow? (We used to compost them)

    Fuel efficient cars, there is no additional gas produced as a result of using these cars, so there is no potential for “net metered gasoline” so no way to sell any back.

    And how would one ever be able to sell excess illness?

    The whole thing is based on the potential to produce more electricity than your home uses. With the exception of tomatoes, your examples don’t have that “potential” (see what I did there?)…

    Tomatoes are actually a perfect example of the reality involved with home based solar PV.
    For details read “The $64 Tomato” with a few simple changes it describes residential solar PV to a “T”

    The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden

  2. It is not selling back. It is banking. Why raise the connection fee?

  3. If I were selling it, I should get 30 cents per kWh due to the time of use.

  4. Steve says:

    You have one customer, there is no competition for your product.

    If that customer deigns to buy your product, you are stuck with what they are willing to pay.

    As for “banking” the “excess”, in your examples the only one that has a possibility of the same is the tomato. And in that case those who might choose to buy your excess tomatoes, will eat them.

    As for “banking” your excess, it costs for storage….so they sell it on the open market for a profit.

    During peak hours everyone is a net consumer, even those with solar installed, therefore you should not receive any credits for excess power. Your system is not producing more than your air conditioner is consuming. And TOU is only during the hot months.
    By your statement, NVE should credit based on the lowest TOU rate.

  5. Bruce Kester says:

    Best course of action is a ballot measure in November to restore the old rate structure. In just PV owners alone, 18,000 highly motivated voters doesn’t include the thousands that were on the verge of going solar. Nor does it include the thousands that feel strongly about the virtues of going green. Throw into the support all those affected by the elimination of an entire industry from employment to the macro-purchasing world of things they would have bought.

    The numbers motivated by the ballot measure movement may be far fewer than “Steves” in this state, but never underestimate the power of motivation.

  6. Steve says:

    Bruce doesn’t like reality.

    Voter numbers are nowhere near his dreams.

  7. Bruce Kester says:

    What….. you don’t think there are 18 thousand irate, highly motivated solar array voters in this state? You don’t think that may be multiplied by the numbers of additional voters that may reside in those homes, or within the family network for solar array families?
    Or is it that you don’t think that are a sizable number of environmental voters out there willing to do what is necessary to change the way NV Energy produces energy and exists as a monopoly? Or is it that you don’t think the people of this state have no complaints about the way our PUC rules it’s world?
    Many political movements may coalesce to prove my speculations correct.

  8. Rincon says:

    RE: Scalia’s death: I heard on the news that the Republicans have already promised to block any Obama nominee until a new President takes office. I suspect the Founding Fathers didn’t have one year delays in mind when they created the Constitution. As usual, the Republicans play to win – not for the American people, but for themselves to the exclusion of the needs of the people. In subsequent years, the Democrats will feel obliged to do the same. I predict that, as delay measures become ever more accepted, blocking nominations for two or possibly even three years will become routine. Serve the people? Not in a plutocracy.

  9. No delays would be necessary, if President Obama for once in his tenure in office…put the country first and NOT the demagoguing Democrat party by putting forth a Supreme Court nominee who has broad support and is respected by both sides of the aisle. But alas…it is another chance for him to swerve to the left and poke his finger in the eye of conservatives, libertarians, and moderates. Any bets on what he will do?

  10. Nyp says:

    I’ll take that bet.

  11. Rincon says:

    As if Scalia was a consensus pick in the first place. Nominated by Reagan and confirmed by a Republican Senate. Tell me, which has a better chance of selecting a moderate candidate, a Democratic President with a Republican Senate or a President with a Senate run of the same party?

    BTW, “The longest delay in a Supreme Court justice’s confirmation is 125 days, and Obama has the better part of a year left in office, notes ThinkProgress.” http://www.newser.com/story/220547/will-obama-be-able-to-pick-scalias-successor.html?utm_source=part&utm_medium=united&utm_campaign=rss_home

    You actually think that almost tripling the longest delay in history, paralyzing the court for more than a year, creating a precedent for very long future delays and setting up a nomination that may give one party essentially dictatorial power over the selection of the next justice is in the best interest of our country? Partisanship overcomes principle. If the voters agree with you, then our country has hit a new low.

  12. I never bet against a sure thing.

  13. Steve says:

    Bruce, after that 18,000, the numbers you are dreaming up simply don’t exist to such an extent.
    Just for arguments sake, lets say all your extrapolations were to fall 100% in place, it is still a severe minority of votes.

    What you are asking of people is that they support people who can afford to spend upwards of $30,000 on upgrading their $300,000 homes.
    That will be a hard sell to the majority who are not in the same group.

    Now, you assume I am against solar simply because I am looking at the costs and arguments being presented here.
    You couldn’t be further from reality.
    If you have read anything else I’ve written on this site you would see I think a home owner can still benefit from installing PV to power devices off the grid. No Net Metering at all. No regulation by contract with NVE.
    Simply use their TOU and the the system will power the high wattage stuff during the high cost months.
    This effectively makes it possible to never pay the peak rate as the system takes the real expensive devices away from the power company.
    During those hot days, (at peak rate hours) all you would use grid power for would be TV’s, stereo’s computers and other miscellaneous low consumption devices.
    I think TOU makes the whole thing pencil out by removing the high cost contractors required by NVE, preventing NVE from requiring you do things that allow connection to the grid, and making it possible to install much of it yourself. And you still benefit from the tax subsidies.

    This is not simply theory, I’ve seen full off grid systems in more moderate climates that work fine. By using the grid, via an automatic switch, as a supplement instead of a battery, I say it is possible to make it work in our hot summers.

    In my opinion net metering was a way to keep people trapped on the NVE monopoly and they were very good at hiding the contractual traps everyone signed on for.
    Truth is, the only competition for a monopoly is its customers.
    I decided, long ago, I could do better with a few good investments aimed at paying for electricity. So far I am doing OK with that plan. (even in the current market)

  14. Steve says:

    One example of a Supreme Court justice being confirmed to the court in an election year happened in 1988.

    President Ronald Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy to the court on Nov.30, 1987. He was confirmed in a 97-0 vote on Feb. 3, 1988. Democrats held the majority in the chamber.

    Reagan got bipartisan support for Kennedy.
    Anyone think Obama can do the same?

  15. Patrick says:

    The history of Reagan’s appointment of Anthony Kennedy is relevant; Reagan’s first two choices, Robert Bork and Douglas Ginsburg did not, to say the least, have much partisan, much less bipartisan support.

    It was after those very divisive appointments were….winnowed out, that Reagan nominated Kennedy. Reagan was forced, by the circumstances, to appoint a more moderate candidate lest he totally lost out on an opportunity to mold the court in his graven image.

  16. Steve says:

    But, can Obama do the same?

  17. Perhaps an Obama appointee will Borked.

  18. Patrick says:

    President has demonstrated an almost uncanny ability though, to outsmart the republicans with his Supreme Court nominations.

    My guess is he will nominate a candidate that will force republicans to choose between wanting to stimie him, and their own election/the “good name” of the Republican Party; say another Hispanic woman with solid Christian beliefs.


  19. It is all a game to liberals.

  20. Steve says:

    It does seem to be all about obstructing the other side them blaming that side for being obstructionist……
    What’s good for the country be damned.

  21. Patrick says:

    Heck, before Scalia’s body got cold, Mitch McConnell turned it into a political game by saying it would be up to the next president to decide on a nominee.

    If the “leader” of the Senate Majority cared about the country, and assuming a full bodied Supreme Court is part of the country, how does he say such a thing?

    The hack.

  22. Steve says:

    Harry Reid was just as fast with his call for an immediate nominee.


    Is non partisan.

  23. nyp says:

    If you wish to “Bork” whomever President Obama nominates, please go ahead. Do just what Teddy Kennedy and Joe Biden did: have hearings, have a debate on the Senate floor, and vote on the nomination. That will be fine with us. Just make sure the Senate performs its constitutional duty.

  24. Rincon says:

    The Democrats never told Reagan that they would block his nomination no matter what. Times have changed. Had the situation been reversed, I wonder if the Democrats would have been so crass.

    A fifth reason that blocking an Obama nomination will hurt our country: When the Supreme Court has a tie, the original ruling by the Appellate Judge stands. This gives the 179 or so Appellate Judges a great deal of power if they encounter a trial where they anticipate a standoff at the Supreme Court level. It essentially turns these judges into not only Supreme Court Judges for those select few cases. It gives them absolute power.

  25. Patrick says:

    Mitch laid down the gauntlet barely 1 hour after Scalia had been pronounced dead; he drew first blood.

    Democrats could not be expected to simply stand by.

    “The swiftness of McConnell’s statement — coming about an hour after Scalia’s death in Texas had been confirmed — stunned White House officials who had expected the Kentucky Republican to block their nominee with every tool at his disposal, but didn’t imagine the combative GOP leader would issue an instant, categorical rejection of anyone Obama chose to nominate.”

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/02/mitch-mcconnell-antonin-scalia-supreme-court-nomination-219248#ixzz40BNXxYGQ

  26. Patrick says:

    Mitch laid down the gauntlet barely 1 hour after Scalia had been pronounced dead; he drew first blood.

    Democrats could not be expected to simply stand by.

    “The swiftness of McConnell’s statement — coming about an hour after Scalia’s death in Texas had been confirmed — stunned White House officials who had expected the Kentucky Republican to block their nominee with every tool at his disposal, but didn’t im
    agine the combative GOP leader would issue an instant, categorical rejection of anyone Obama chose to nominate.”

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/02/mitch-mcconnell-antonin-scalia-supreme-court-nomination-219248#ixzz40BNXxYGQ

  27. Steve says:

    Can’t hold McConnell to task for learning Reid’s methods so well.
    Shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Reid’s legacy is obstruction and he taught both aisle’s of the Senate well.

    McConnell is the inevitable result.

    Now Senate Democrats get to reap the rewards of their efforts.

  28. Steve says:

    Then we get back to Ted Kennedy teaching the Republicans…..Borking Borke.

  29. Steve says:

    Bork…..borked by Ted Kennedy.

  30. Patrick says:

    Course Ted Kennedy was not Senator Reid and he didn’t have to wait until the previous Justices body got cold.


  31. Patrick says:

    And as Pete pointed out; Bork got a hearing. (And more than 15% of republicans voted against him)

  32. Steve says:

    Which brings us full circle, right back to Reid and McConnell.

  33. Rincon says:

    Both parties are guilty, but Republicans appear to be guiltier. A reasonable and objective measure of obstructionism, the average number of cloture votes per session since 1979 has been 57.25 for Republicans and 41.63 for Democrats. http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/brookings-now/posts/2013/11/chart-recent-history-of-senate-cloture-votes-to-end-filibusters

    That being said, the real culprit is our pseudodemocracy. Moderates cannot win primaries in most cases and extremists usually don’t play well with the other children. Simple as that. Instant runoff voting would go a long way towards restoring a truly democratic system, but our plutocratic duopoly will never allow it.

  34. Steve says:

    If you look closer at that chart Rincon, it appears the Republican/Democrat ratio was abut equal until 2007
    It would appear the Republicans didn’t really feel a need to fight so hard until Reid took over the Senate.

    In my view, what you showed only supports what I have been saying. Reid taught McConnell how to be obstructionist.
    And now the Democrats get to reap what they sowed.

  35. Rincon says:

    Chicken or egg? If Reid was such a bad boy, the alternative to obstructionism would have been to take the case to the American people. Doesn’t work well for Republicans though,since they work mostly for the 1%.

  36. Rincon says:

    Given your theory, it’s curious that the Republican Senate obstructed just about as much during the 112th Congress, when the Republicans enjoyed a majority in the House. There was no need. I think it’s become reflex.

  37. Steve says:

    Oh, I see.

    Reid has no responsibility for anything.


  38. Steve says:

    It is nice, however, that you do see what I saw in that chart….The spike came with Reid’s rise to leadership….I believe in coincidence but continual and repetitive coincidence for most of the decade…..that is more suspect than coincidence.

  39. It’s time for the Senate majority to give the President his “Miguel Estrada” moment…instead of 28 months in political limbo and six months of filibustering…they need only 11.

  40. From Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt email for National Review:

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should just give this speech:

    “We should not confirm any Obama nominee to the Supreme Court except in extraordinary circumstances. They must prove by actions not words that they are in the mainstream rather than we have to prove that they are not . . .

    “This is just a prologue considering the constitutional harm and dramatic departures that are in store if those few are joined by one more ideological ally. We have to, in my judgment, stick by the precepts that I’ve elaborated. I will do everything in my power to prevent one more ideological ally from joining Sotomayor and Kagan on the court.”

    That, of course, is a speech from Chuck Schumer from June 2007, with “Bush” replaced with “Obama” and “Roberts and Alito” changed to “Sotomayor and Kagan.” Watch the video; the audience at the American Constitutional Society gave it roaring applause at the end. No one booed. No one shouted this was an assault on the Constitution and rule of law. No one tore their hair out claiming that this was an obstinate ideological litmus test, and that it represented an assault on an independent judiciary.

    So we’ve already established that in the minds of the American legal community, it is perfectly legitimate and fair for an opposition party to refuse to confirm a president’s nominees to the Supreme Court unless the nominee meets that opposition party’s definition of “mainstream.”

    Goose, meet gander.

    What’s more, Obama is particularly hypocritical here; he’s the first president who voted to filibuster one of his predecessor’s nominations, Samuel Alito. Obama voted against John Roberts as well — you know, the chief justice who saved Obamacare twice.


  41. Patrick says:

    Let McConnell say that the republicans should not “confirm” the presidents nominee. Course, this implies a hearing and while such a statement is completely inappropriate given that the nominee isn’t even known, the republicans will soon look foolish, as they did when the president outsmarted them by nominating two women, and one of them a Hispanic.

    Republicans are, in this instance, like a poker player who, before the hand is dealt, announces that he is going “all in” no matter what he gets.

    Those players inevitably, leave broke.

  42. Patrick says:

    As someone said:

    “Mitch McConnell has decided to wager the Republican majority in the Senate on blocking Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court.

    It’s a bold and understandable gambit designed to prevent a leftward lurch in jurisprudence after Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death this weekend, but it could backfire badly.

    Assuming the president picks a Hispanic, African American or Asian American – bonus points if she’s a woman – this could be exactly what Democrats need to re-activate the Obama coalition that fueled his victories in 2008 and 2012. Even if he does not go with a minority candidate, the cases on the docket will galvanize voters who are traditionally less likely to turn out.”


  43. Rincon says:

    “Reid has no responsibility for anything.” I never said it and do not believe it. I think this whole mess was born from an eye-for-an-eye mentality. much like the Israelis and Palestinians, the former Yugoslav republics and a whole lot of other human disasters. These childish antics are ruining the country and we voters are responsible because we egg them on. Time for us to act like adults and learn to work with each other.

  44. Patrick says:

    Well now we know what the Alex Jones’s of the world will be talking about for the next several days/weeks:

    Apparently in Texas, the coroner can declare a person to have died of natural causes (as she did in Scalia’s case) by telephone, and without actually examining or even see the body.

    That’s a nice work from home job eh?


  45. Of course our resident leftists have nothing to say about the utter hypocrisy of Sen. Schumer and the double talking Democrats in 2007…as noted by Mr. Mitchell above. I concur…Mitch (turkey jowls) McConnell would be well served by reciting that same speech with the updated name changes!

  46. Patrick says:


    Assuming that you include me in that category, I did address what Mitch said:, Schumer said:

    Let there be a hearing and we’ll see how everyone does.

    I’m betting on the guy that doesn’t say he’s going all in before the cards are dealt.

  47. Rincon says:

    Now, Cruz says he will filibuster if necessary to block any Supreme Court nominee proposed by Obama. This means that, even if his fellow Republicans find a nominee to be acceptable, Cruz will block it not because of the nominee, but because of who nominated him. Give that boy a rattle and a diaper and put him to bed.

  48. […] never could figure out why, when NV Energy jacked up the rates charged to residential solar panel owners because they were somehow being subsidized by non-panel […]

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