Have you ever heard of “net metering?” Net metering is slightly different depending on your location but the basic idea is that utilities have to buy rooftop solar power from customers who produce it, at current retail electric rates. If someone generates as much power as he consumes, his utility bill can zero out. Currently 44 states and Washington, DC have mandatory net metering and utilities in three of the remaining states allow some form of it.
This is the debate in Nevada. It has been extremely popular and has helped established a thriving solar industry. According to the Solar Foundation, solar businesses employed 5,900 in Nevada in 2014. This is the most employees in the solar industry than in any other state. Tech companies and data centers have been seeking cleaner power in Nevada, the sunny dessert. $569 million was invested in Nevada solar installations in 2014, a 427% increase from 2013.
Net metering is popular in Nevada; however, NV Energy is not a fan. NV Energy was recently acquired by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy and continues to pressure the state legislature to keep a low cap on the program’s size, which will likely halt growth in the industry.
The tension among players in the solar industry is not unique. Utilities have never been fans of net metering but as prices in rooftop solar drop, they see it as a threat. Legislation to make net metering illegal or more costly has been introduced in nearly two dozen state houses since 2013. Some of the proposals were virtual copies of model legislation tied to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.
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