February 11, 2016
We have been covering the decision made by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of Nevada for several weeks, talking about how 17,000 Nevadans who installed solar have had the rug pulled out from under them when the PUC killed net metering in the state. Solar companies, solar installers, activists, and average, everyday citizens of the Silver State have been rallying against it since then, and a major milestone in that battle is this week, as the PUCN is expected to decide whether or not to grandfather in net metering for existing solar customers or not.
Show Me the Data!
Importantly, 89% of Nevadans are opposed to the PUC decision, 17,000 Nevadans have solar installed on their properties, the solar industry was growing 53 times faster than employment in the rest of Nevada… but has pulled an abrupt 180, with over 1,000 solar industry jobs having already been lost since the new ruling effectively made installing solar a losing proposition in December.
Leading the charge to reverse the ruling or, at a minimum, grandfather in the old policy for Nevadans with solar already installed is the Bring Back Solar campaign. The PUCN is expected to issue a ruling on grandfathering by Friday and to ensure the voices of the thousands of Nevadans who support solar are heard. Protests and rallies at the PUCN offices are organized to get the word out.
The Vegan Hippie Chick with a Race Car
One of the leaders of the charge is long-time eco-champion Leilani Münter, who drove out to Las Vegas in 006, the Stealth Projection Mobile Assault Vehicle with a mission. The mission this time for Leilani and 006 is to spread the word about what the reversal of net metering means to Nevadans. Leilani is, as she likes to say, “a vegan hippie chick with a race car” who regularly uses her platform as a professional race car driver on the ARCA circuit to spread environmental messages to racing fans.
She has advocated for dolphins, spreading the word about the thousands of dolphins being trapped and slaughtered for food in Japan via the movie “The Cove,” educating the world about the massive impact humanity is having on animals around the world in “Racing Extinction” at the end of last year as well as advocating fair solar regulations in California last month.
Leilani is not just talking the talk but she and her husband are also walking the walk, driving a Tesla Model S, eating vegan, collecting and reusing rainwater, and tapping into the power of the sun with a solar array on the roof of their North Carolina home. Interestingly, they had to fight their HOA to get approval for the installation and continue to get letters from the HOA asking whether or not it was an approved installation.
What’s Really Happening in Nevada?
To get to the bottom of the issue in Nevada, I reached out to Leilani in Las Vegas. She shared that “the public utilities commissioners are just three people in Nevada and they are appointed by the governor. So that means that three people in the state that are not elected by the public are controlling what happens with solar in Nevada. In California, which is by the way, is the 7th largest economy in the world, it’s only five people and we only won that vote by one vote. It was 3 to 2. Think about the fact that one person, voting for the right side, controlled what happened to solar in the 7th largest economy in the world.”
“That’s why I came out here in the Tesla,” Leilani Münter said, after she drove out to Vegas in an all-electric Tesla to spread the word. While driving out there, the battle really hit home: “I was driving across the desert and… as I got further and further into the desert, it hit me more and more, the ridiculous irony that I was driving into the desert to fight for solar power. Of all the places in the world, the desert. To me, it’s insane. It shows just how absolutely insane our world has become.”
What is Being Done?
Leilani and the Bring Back the Solar campaign are fighting a two-pronged battle against the entrenched utility — first, for a near-term fix for existing solar owners with the aforementioned grandfathering push, which would extend the old regulation for existing solar owners. This allows them to operate their systems and get the payback that they were promised by the state by way of the net metering regulation that was in place.
The second prong of the war is the longer battle to actually reverse the new net metering regulation that was put in place. To get solar on the ballot, a referendum had to be filed which still needs to be approved. If it gets approved, the team needs to pull together 55,000 signatures… which should not be an issue considering that, in just 2 weeks, the team gathered 30,000 signatures to share with the PUCN. At that point, the issue will be on the ballot in November for the public to vote on.
Bring Back Solar took to the streets in 006 to blast the word out to the people of Nevada last night:
How Can People Help?
To truly tackle this issue, people need to mobilize. Thanks to technology, this has never been easier: “Go to bringbacksolar.org. That’s who I’m here with… this initiative to bring back solar to Nevada and raise awareness about the website and sign their names. That way the PUC will see that the public wants this. The public wants solar. The public doesn’t like what the PUC voted for and they want to overturn it and hopefully that will have an affect on their decision on Friday.”
Folks who are local in Las Vegas can also join the cause in person with rallies planned at the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada over the next few days. Check out the Bring Back the Solar site for the most recent updates, get engaged on Facebook, or connect with likeminded activists over at the 100.org page for the Nevada solar fight.
100.org has a great video up that really captures just how crazy this regulatory change… and the whole regulatory setup in Nevada seems to be. Mark Ruffalo calls them out as the Anti-Robin Hood, taking from the poor and giving to the rich. Check out the full 3 minute video for all the juicy bits.
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