Nevada, which has more sun than just about any other state, is doing its best to kill the solar industry. The state’s regulatory commission approved an increase in the monthly service charge for electric utility customers while sharply reducing the price utilities pay for customers’ solar-generated power.
I had previously written about the boost in the service charge, and how it seems reasonable for utilities to recoup some or all of the fixed costs of the distribution system via a fixed service charge. The Snohomish County PUD has begun exploring such a charge for residential customers; today the PUD is one of a handful of state utilities that does not impose a service, or distribution charge. The PUD, like other utilities with solar programs, also pays customers who install panels the full retail price of electricity for the rooftop-generated electricity. That’s part of the state’s net metering law.
However, Nevada appears to have gone much too far in both increasing its existing service charge and reducing the net-metering payments to customers, which dropped to two cents from the previous 11 cents/kWh. Now solar companies are shuttering their doors and laying off thousands of workers, as reported by The Guardian.
The decision to replace economic incentives with new higher fees pulled the carpet out from under an industry that provided 8,700 jobs in the state last year, according to the Solar Foundation, and stranded some 17,000 homeowners who have already gone solar with a financial liability on their rooftops.
Three companies, including SolarCity, announced they were quitting the state, laying off about 1,000 workers.
SolarCity, founded by Elon Musk of Tesla fame, finds himself opposite Warren Buffet, whose company owns Nevada Energy (NVEnergy), the state’s largest investor-owned utility. But there’s more going on.
The move by Nevada’s regulators is part of an overall strategy by the Koch brothers et al. to kill solar energy. Why? The Kochs are into fossil fuels—big time. Moreover, the Kochs detest government in general and its regulations in particular. As chronicled in Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money, the Kochs have targeted alternatives to oil, coal, and natural gas. Americans for Prosperity, the Koch’s umbrella group, was behind the attacks on Solyndra, the failed solar-panel company.
Nor should we ignore the disastrous environmental record of the Kochs. Here’s Jane Mayer:
The numbers regarding Koch Industries’ pollution were incontrovertible. In 2012, according to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory database, which documents the toxic and carcinogenic output of eight thousand American companies, Koch Industries was the number one producer of toxic waste in the United States. It generated 950 million pounds of hazardous materials that year. Of this total output, it released 56.8 million pounds into the air, water, and soil, making it the country’s fifth-largest polluter. The company was also among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in America, spewing over twenty-four million tons of carbon dioxide a year into the atmosphere by 2011, according to the EPA, as much as is typically emitted by five million cars.
If the Kochs continue to have their way, they will literally destroy the planet while siphoning off billions in profits.