Homeowners complain about delays in NV Energy approving rooftop solar

Homeowners complain about delays in NV Energy approving rooftop solar

NV Energy is working to connect hundreds of new rooftop solar installations to the grid, but lacks the staff to do so quickly enough for some customers.

It’s also coming under intense pressure from the solar industry to address questions about a proposed fee for rooftop solar customers and a cap limiting new consumer installation of solar panels.

Some Nevada homeowners say they have waited months for NV Energy to sign off on their rooftop solar installations.

Henderson resident Phil Aurbach, an attorney who purchased 18 panels in June, has filed a complaint with the PUC saying that the power company failed approve his rooftop solar installation in a timely fashion and has not offered him an estimate of when it might connect his panels to the grid.

In his complaint, Aurbach says he was told by an employee of NV Energy’s solar division that, “We cannot tell you when we are going to come out or schedule an appointment — we just show up one day.”

Because it’s waiting for a hookup, Aurbach’s system is creating energy that’s not being used. “The PUC ought to force NV Energy to set appointments and force them to disclose how backlogged they are and why,” Aurbach said.

NV Energy says it is working as fast as it can and that it takes an average of 120 days to hook up solar systems to the grid. The company has 15 employees who do rooftop solar installation and safety inspections.

The residential rooftop industry has grown by more than 1,000 percent in the last year — creating a backlog of consumers who have systems not yet tied to the grid. The power company says that the solar industry is adding 20 megawatts of new customers per month — the electricity equivalent of 35 Wal-Mart Supercenters. The utility provides credits to rooftop solar customers for providing energy to the grid and says that for each megawatt of solar it adds to the grid costs around $8 million. NV Energy calls that credit a subsidy supported by nonsolar ratepayers.

The unrest comes as the company is working with the PUC to end the ongoing debate about the solar cap.

Solar advocates attacked the utility this month after NV Energy officials announced that the solar cap would be hit in August, rather than next March as previously projected.

In a petition it filed with the PUC last week, the utility said that rapid solar growth led to an incorrect prediction. “Forecasts necessarily are based on assumptions, and assumptions may prove to be wrong. But NVE presented the assumptions used to create the forecast (…) in a clear and transparent manner for Legislators and stakeholders,” the power company said in a filing.

To solve the matter, the Bureau of Consumer Protection proposed a measure Thursday to bump up the cap by 17.5 megawatts — the gap between the utility’s forecast and the current trend.

Next week, the company will propose its fee recommendation to the PUC. State law says that new rooftop solar installations can continue after a cap is met, but is silent on when the utility may impose the fee. Solar industry representatives say they are worried about the timing should the cap be hit before a resolution is reached. The commission has until December to make a decision.


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