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Nevada Reinstates Solar Panel Policy After Tesla Throws Temper Tantrum

by Chris White (June 15, 2017) www.dailycaller.com

Nevada’s Republican governor signed a bill Thursday reinstating a solar energy policy that would bring electric automaker Tesla back after a prolonged boycott of the state’s initial decision to nix the rule.

Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the legislation bringing back installers Sunrun and Tesla after nearly a two-year absence. CEO Elon Musk boycotted the state until Nevada reinstated the policy, which requires public utilities to purchase excess power from rooftop solar panels.

State legislators passed the bill, known as net metering, a policy many activists say is critical to keeping Nevada’s solar industry afloat. The growth of the residential solar industry has slowed recently in several Western states.

The policy reinstatement will “bring in thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in positive economic benefit” to Nevada, Tesla executive JB Straubel said at the bill’s signing.

Sandoval’s decision to sign the bill comes after voters passed the Energy Choice Initiative in 2016 calling on lawmakers to split up the state’s electrical market and end the utility company’s legal monopoly. The amendment was spurred in part by massive companies seeking to leave NV Energy and find their own providers.

The vote likely came as a result of a decision in 2015 by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to hike fees on homes affixed with solar panels, a move that basically kicked one of Tesla’s solar panel divisions out of the state.

PUC at the time imposed rules effectively ending net-metering, all but forcing electrical utilities to buy the energy produced by rooftop solar panels at near-retail rates. The move eventually led to a 30 percent decrease in solar installation jobs in the state last year.

Tesla, Sunrun, and others promote net metering to encourage the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Some analysts believe the policy is a wealth transfer from public utilities to rooftop solar companies, because the demand and price for the electrical power fluctuates widely on any given day.

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Deal Between SolarCity Corp And APS Ends Fight, For Now At Least

by Aman Jain (April 29, 2016) www.valuewalk.com

SolarCity made a deal with Arizona Public Service, putting an end to the public fight pitting the utility company against solar companies. On Thursday, the agreement between Arizona’s biggest utility and the nation’s largest solar company was announced, and hopefully this deal means the competing measures asking voters about how to treat rooftop solar power are finally being removed.

SolarCity SCTY

Strong foundation for future reforms

Both sides have agreed to negotiate how solar customers who produce extra power on their rooftops are to be paid. Lawmakers and Gov. Doug Ducey negotiated with SolarCity and APS. The governor’s office will participate in the talks, and if all goes well, then eventually, other solar firms and utilities will sign on as well.

Less than an hour after Republicans in the Arizona Senate started taking steps to send Arizona voters separate rates for rooftop solar users and regulate solar leasing companies as utilities, Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, announced the deal. Lesko said these actions are intended to enable constructive discussion between Arizona electric utilities, including APS and SolarCity.

The fight started two years ago when utilities started preparing rate cases and began pushing added fees for rooftop solar customers. The rooftop solar industry fought back, saying the utilities were protecting their profit by trying to kill the industry.

Citizens’ initiative from SolarCity: the hero

The SolarCity-backed citizens’ initiative is seen as the primary reason behind the announcement. The initiative commanded utilities to pay people who produce power with rooftop solar panels the full retail price for the power they send back to the grid.

After a citizens’ initiative was filed earlier this month, Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, and Lesko crafted the voter referrals with help from APS. This task needed a massive signature-gathering effort, while only House and Senate approval was required for the legislative referral.

In less than two weeks, the initiative collected more than 40,000 signatures, said Kris Mayes, the former Arizona Corporation Commissioner who was chairing the citizens’ initiative. The initiative needed 225,000 signatures to get on the ballot by July 7.

“The people of Arizona resoundingly support solar,” Mayes said. “And I think that’s why the governor’s office decided to show some leadership in this process and help these parties along.”

This is a big deal, especially that even without a precedent, a large utility like APS and the nation’s largest solar company, SolarCity, are coming together for negotiations, said Mayes.

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Solar City Pulls Out of Nevada After Passing Anti-Solar Legislation

Solar City Press Release  (Jan 06, 2016)

LAS VEGAS – Following the decision by Governor Brian Sandoval’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to terminate Nevada’s rooftop solar industry just days before Christmas, SolarCity® (NASDAQ: SCTY) announced that it has been forced to eliminate more than 550 jobs in the state. Where possible, the company will relocate affected employees to business-friendly states.

The PUC’s decision to change the rules to punish existing solar customers after the state encouraged them to go solar with rebates is particularly callous and leaves Nevadans to question whether the state would ever place the financial security of regular citizens above the financial interests of NV Energy.

“I contacted Governor Sandoval multiple times after the ruling because I am convinced that he and the PUC didn’t fully understand the consequences of this decision, not only on the thousands of local jobs distributed solar has created, but on the 17,000 Nevadans that installed solar with the state’s encouragement,” said Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s CEO. “I’m still waiting to speak to the Governor but I am convinced that once he and the Commissioners understand the real impact, that they will do the right thing.”

SolarCity announced on December 23 that as a result of the PUC decision, it had to cease solar sales and installation in the state effective immediately. Other Nevada solar companies with higher cost structures than SolarCity are expected to collectively lay off thousands of additional Nevadans in the coming months.

“Telling employees they can no longer work for SolarCity is the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” continued Rive. “These are hard-working Nevadans and a single government action has put them out of work. This is not how government is supposed to work.”

SolarCity has also closed a training center in West Las Vegas that it opened a little over a month ago. The November press release announcing its opening contained this statement from Governor Sandoval: “I’m proud to celebrate the opening of SolarCity’s new training center, which will make Nevada the regional hub for training workers in the jobs of the 21st century. Our homegrown solar industry has already created over 6,000 good Nevada jobs, and has tremendous potential to continue driving innovation, economic diversification, and opportunity in the Silver State.”

Fortunately, there are other voices speaking up for solar employees and customers.  The Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection is attempting to protect Nevadans by filing a motion to halt implementation of the PUC’s ruling, stating that the order’s impact “is not consistent with the Governor’s stated objectives of SB 374 or the Governor’s initiatives and focus to increase jobs and employment for Nevada residents.”

Just weeks after Congress voted with bipartisan support to extend the federal tax credit for solar, Governor Sandoval’s Commission is moving the state backwards. The Governor’s and Commission’s support for a de facto ban on rooftop solar defies public opinion, including the opinion of the members of his own party. According to a recent poll by Moore Information, 73% of registered Nevada Republicans support the state’s previous rooftop solar rules.

CLICK HERE to read the original article. 

Elon Musk’s Solar Company to Use Former Solyndra Buildings

Wed, 02/25/2015

Andrew Szal, Digital Reporter, IMPO

 solyndra 04

SolarCity, the California-based solar power company chaired by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, will soon set up shop in the property that formerly housed Solyndra.

The two-building, 200,000-square-foot complex in Fremont, California has been vacant since Solyndra went bankrupt in 2011, an event that made the solar cell manufacturer the poster child for criticism of energy policy under the Obama administration.

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SolarCity, however, recently leased the buildings to serve as its manufacturing research and development headquarters and plans to hire hundreds of new employees to staff the facility.

Musk’s cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive co-founded SolarCity in 2006 as an installer of solar panels, with the SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO serving as chairman. But last year the company acquired a New York panel maker as part of an effort to move into manufacturing.

Musk said at the time that panel manufacturing would enable business growth over the long term, although the move into production proved costly for other solar companies in the past.solyndra 03

SolarCity’s increased investments led to a fourth quarter loss that exceeded analysts’ expectations, despite sales that increased from $47.3 million to $71.8 million.

“It’s very tough to say right now whether it’s a stroke of genius or unnecessary,” said Shyam Mehta, an analyst for clean energy research firm GTM Research, of SolarCity’s move toward manufacturing.

Although SolarCity’s success on the manufacturing front remains uncertain, the lease of Solyndra’s headquarters could provide a public relations boost to the solar industry.

Solyndra infamously collapsed in 2011 despite receiving $528 million in loans through the U.S. Department of Energy. The company then became an issue in President Obama’s re-election campaign the following year, with critics alleging the administration directed loans to the president’s political allies.

solyndra 02

In recent months, however, the clean energy loan program reportedly eliminated its losses and now expects to earn more than $5 billion for the federal government amid rapid growth as the solar power industry. A recent report found solar energy jobs increased by more than 20 percent in 2014, while an energy consulting firm projected solar’s share of the U.S. energy market to grow six-fold over the next 20 years.

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