Ed Uehling and Grover Norquist after Ed signed the Nevada Taxpayer Protection Pledge affirming his position of not raising taxes.
Ed Uehling and Grover Norquist after Ed signed the Nevada Taxpayer Protection Pledge affirming his position of not raising taxes.
” The unlikely scene that unfolded in Las Vegas yesterday looked like this: There was Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, seated before a table resembling a solar panel, ready to sign a bill restoring net metering in Nevada.
Tesla Inc.’s red logo highlighted the scene. It was attached to a warehouse wall, serving as a backdrop. Nearby, a crowd of solar advocates, environmentalists and state lawmakers looked on.
“I believe, humbly, it will be a national model across the country,” the governor told the crowd. “I’m as competitive as it gets, and I want Nevada to truly be a leader in energy policy.”
The gathering followed an 18-month roller-coaster ride that kicked net metering out of the state, leading to an exodus of solar installers. In response, there was a legislative blitz by renewable energy advocates in Carson City, the state capital. Lawmakers sent 11 green-shaded bills to the governor’s desk for approval.
In the midst of all that action, voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to deregulate the state’s power market.
The question now is: Can Nevada serve as a model for how to integrate rooftop solar into the grid, less than two years since it all but banned the practice?
The early returns are promising for the solar industry.
Tesla, Sunrun Inc. and Vivint Solar Inc., all national installers, have said they intend to resume work in the Silver State. Speaking at the bill signing yesterday, Tesla Chief Technology Officer J.B. Straubel said the company is already stocking shelves with new panels, hiring staff and preparing to resume operations. He estimated that the company has a backlog of more than 1,000 customers interested in installing panels on their homes.
“This is not something that is going to take days, weeks, months,” Straubel said.
Such a scene would have been difficult to imagine in December 2015 when the Public Utilities Commission voted to end net metering — as the credits paid to panel-owning homeowners for power sent back to the grid are called.
Solar advocates and former regulators say the turnaround provides a series of lessons for greens and state officials as they attempt to integrate a growing amount of renewables onto the grid.
First, advocates focused on the economic benefits delivered by the industry.
Solar installers slashed more than 2,600 jobs in the wake of the PUC’s decision, as residential solar installations ground to a halt. Campaigners in Carson City made job creation a central plank in their campaign to restore net metering. The push showed in the final legislative tally (the bill passed unanimously in the state Senate and with two votes against it in the General Assembly). It was also evident in Sandoval’s remarks yesterday.
Having a governor who is inclined to advocate for renewables helped. Sandoval expressed displeasure with the PUC’s ruling against net metering at the time. But his focus on jobs was telling. In his remarks, the governor cited the economic boost of major solar installers returning to the state, saying, “This is hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs.”
Second, solar advocates focused on consumer choice.
They stressed that homeowners should be presented with the opportunity to go solar. Consumers, they argued, should be free to choose an option that can help reduce their monthly electric bills.
Finally, promoting a local resource to create jobs resonated with lawmakers, said Assemblyman Chris Brooks, a Democrat who once owned a rooftop solar firm and spearheaded the clean energy push in Carson City. Solar is that local resource. Nevada lacks a coal, oil or natural gas industry.
“A lot of folks would say, and you would be surprised, ‘Las Vegas has so much sun; why aren’t we putting solar on every roof in Nevada?’” Brooks said. “People across the state, from many different demographics, many different socio-economic situations, all said, ‘Why don’t we use more solar?’”
The final bill establishes a gradually declining reimbursement rate for solar owners as more homeowners install panels. Consumers in the first 80 megawatts of newly installed capacity will receive 95 percent of the retail rate of electricity for surplus power sent back to the grid.
That rate will fall with every additional 80 MW of residential solar installed, eventually settling at a rate of 75 percent. The bill also contains provisions guaranteeing consumers’ right to energy storage, along with measures addressing workplace safety and consumer protection.
Rebecca Wagner, a former PUC commissioner who stepped down shortly before the contentious 2015 vote, said the law represents a logical compromise in a debate often dominated by hyperbole.
Rooftop solar was never likely to lead to a “utility death spiral,” as its detractors often argued. At the same time, she said, the final bill acknowledges the cost associated with increasing the number of homeowners generating their own power and sending it back to the grid.
“Today is very significant with the governor signing the net-metering bill,” Wagner said. “I’ve never seen this sort of progress in my 20 years in energy policy in Nevada.”
Her advice to state regulators grappling with similar issues elsewhere: Listen to consumers.
“People feel strongly about clean energy and access to clean energy. I don’t think that’s ginned up. I think it’s real,” Wagner said. “You’re always concerned about rates for everyone else. There is a path forward, a measured approach.”
But questions still remain.
NV Energy Inc., the state’s incumbent utility, has largely stayed out of the legislative debate. The utility had argued in the past that net metering represents a cost shift, transferring more of the grid’s costs to non-solar-owning customers. A spokeswoman for NV Energy said yesterday that the utility is crafting a new rate for solar owners, as the legislation requires. She declined to comment further.
It remains unclear if Sandoval will sign two other measures that would boost the industry, including a proposal to increase the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 40 percent by 2030 and a community solar bill. The governor faces a deadline today for making a decision on both.
A larger question, perhaps, concerns the fate of Nevada’s power market. A second vote in 2018 will be needed to confirm last November’s result, which saw voters overwhelmingly back deregulation of the state’s power market at the polls.
“To me, if you’re trying to achieve an outcome through policy like advancing renewables or storage, it’s easier under a traditional regulatory mechanism,” Wagner said.
But that’s a question for the future. After two years of near-constant debate, most were just content to celebrate yesterday.
“I’m really excited,” Wagner said. ”
” Clark County’s crackdown on illegal short-term vacation rentals resulted in a record-shattering number of investigations last year.
The county opened 501 cases, more than double the number opened in 2016. As of March 24 more than 100 cases have been opened this year.
County code enforcement chief Jim Andersen said the influx prompted the county to create a task force to enforce its ban of home rentals lasting fewer than 30 days in unincorporated parts of the county. Officers previously received overtime to work holiday weekends in hopes of catching short-term renters in the act.
Andersen said the Short Term Rental Education and Enforcement Team, or “STREET” for short, has seen immediate success.
“The reality is it’s going on every single weekend,” he said. “In each two-day span, we’re finding between 10 and 15.”
However, Andersen said, some landlords who operate illegal rentals are changing their tactics to avoid detection.
“They’re letting their tenants know not to talk to code enforcement,” Andersen said. “They’ll go as far as putting fake leases together.”
Spring Valley under siege
Data provided by the county show that illegal rentals are a problem across the Las Vegas Valley, but a large concentration of the investigations were at properties in the unincorporated town of Spring Valley. A quick survey of online rental services like Airbnb and HomeToGo shows homes being rented for more than $1,000 a night.
One advertisement for a corner lot containing two homes boasts it “sleeps 26-28.”
Members of the town’s advisory board said Spring Valley’s proximity to the Strip and its large homes make it a desirable location for renters. Board members frequently get complaints from residents saying loud parties and droves of strangers are invading their neighborhoods.
“It’s remarkably disruptive, and you don’t know who should be there and not be there,” said John Getter, who chairs the advisory board.
Getter said that from his own backyard he’s seen short-term rentals host parties with more than 100 people. Local streets and cul-de-sacs have been overwhelmed with revelers’ vehicles on some weekends.
“We understand we need 40 million tourists, but we don’t want to live on the Strip,” Getter said.
Fees punish offenders
The county is turning to the courts to bring short-term rental operators into line.
Liens totaling $71,000 were imposed on seven homes last year. County commissioners voted in September to pursue a lawsuit against a company that continued renting out a 2,900-square-foot home in the northwest valley even after receiving four cease-and-desist letters. The company stopped renting soon after.
But Andersen wants to achieve faster results. By the end of May he hopes to introduce a new ordinance allowing code enforcement officers to issue citations and fines without first going to court.
“If you can make contact with someone and physically hand them a ticket with a dollar amount on it, it has a quick impact on their understanding that they need to stop,” he said. ”
” The Las Vegas City Council levied $72,900 in fines on a homeowner who rented out a house on vacation rental websites without a license, sending a strong message to people who disregard new short-term rental rules.
The fines stem from 138 days of unlicensed rental activity through Airbnb and HomeAway at 1925 Silver Ave., including $69,000 in daily penalties for unlicensed renting and $3,900 in failed inspection fees. The homeowner is Neu Nili, according to city records. She declined comment Thursday.
The homeowner collected more than $108,000 in revenue, and the city missed out on roughly $16,000 in room taxes, city Code Enforcement Supervisor Vicki Ozuna said.
Nili applied for a short-term rental permit with the city and didn’t receive one. By the time she applied a second time, the City Council had passed new rules requiring short-term rentals to be at least 660 feet from one another. In the meantime, another homeowner in the neighborhood was granted a permit.
The hefty fine highlighted a rift among city officials over short-term rental rules that the council passed last year. Councilwoman Michele Fiore said during Wednesday’s City Council meeting that she supports re-examining the regulations for properties rented for fewer than 30 days.
“A tyrannical municipality is not going to work, especially for me,” she said.
City Manager Scott Adams said he can’t turn his head “to a knowing violation of the law.”
“I don’t want my staff to get into a situation where they’re being asked to ignore the law in the adjudication of their duties,” he said.
The council ultimately voted 5-0 to authorize city staff to file a lien on the property. Mayor Carolyn Goodman abstained, saying she lives nearby.
Julie Davies, who teaches a short-term rental course at the College of Southern Nevada, questioned the fairness of the city’s short-term rental rules.
“I’m tired of hearing sad story after sad story from people who are going through the hoops and get shot down,” Davies said. ”
” CARSON CITY — A bill that was amended in the Assembly late Friday could run Uber and Lyft out of business in Nevada, critics of the measure said Monday.
The transportation network companies say the amendment increasing insurance requirements and requiring drivers to get businesses licenses before they begin working would end ride-sharing in Nevada, said one press release criticizing the move.
It was heard Monday by the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, but the policy issues raised in the amended bill were not brought up for discussion.
Senate Bill 226 began as a measure designed to ensure that contractors who work for the companies obtained state business licenses.
But the amendment added by Assemblyman Richard Carrillo, D-Las Vegas, added the other requirements, including obtaining a permit from the Nevada Transportation Authority.
If passed, drivers would be required to carry a minimum of $300,000 in coverage when using the app and a minimum of $1.5 million when providing rides to passengers. The ride-sharing companies say the insurance requirements would be the highest in the country.
The Internet Association, which represents internet companies including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Lyft, and Uber, also criticized the amended bill.
“The Nevada Legislature is contemplating a radical transportation proposal that will move the state backward,” association director Robert Callahan said in a statement.
“This proposed regulatory scheme is nothing more than a thinly veiled effort to recreate the old taxicab monopoly by eliminating ride-sharing services from the state,” he said. “If this proposal is passed, Nevada will become the only state in the nation to reject progress and better accessibility to transportation options for its residents.”
The bill remains in the Ways and Means Committee awaiting potential action. If approved by the Assembly, the Senate would have to concur in the changes.
Contact Sean Whaley at email@example.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter. ”