Rebate debate

The Nevada Public Utilities Commission plans to revise its rules related to solar energy in the state by early 2010, and those in the industry have some recommendations about how to make solar cheaper and more accessible to the Nevada masses, while growing the solar industry. NV Energy and Hamilton Solar, working with Vote Solar and the Solar Alliance, submitted their recommendations to the commission on Nov. 24.

Demand has far outweighed the supply when it comes to solar rebates offered through NV Energy’s Renewable Generations program. When they were last offered, available rebates were gone in less than 40 minutes.

Senate Bill 358, passed in May, allows for $255 million in rebates to be paid out over 11 years, with $78 million set aside for the first three years. Hamilton Solar recommended the $255 million be offered with a year-round open application system on a first-come-first-served basis, according to Chad Dickason of the solar installation company. If the rebates are gone within four years rather than 11, so be it. The idea, says Dickason, is that with more rebates offered at once, more people will install solar, which would grow the solar industry and theoretically drive the cost of solar down for consumers.

“If $255 million could be distributed over four or five years, we’re doing not just 200 systems [statewide] a year, we’re doing 1,000 systems a year, in which case all the installers can have the opportunity to buy direct from the manufacturers. Then because of the competition, the average consumer is going to pay less.”

Dickason reasons that once the cost of solar is down, there won’t be a need for rebates, so it won’t matter if the $255 million is used up sooner rather than later. “If we build a competitive market, the need for rebates will not exist,” he says. “But we cannot build a competitive market unless we have a viable rebate program, and to be viable, we can’t survive on 200 systems a year.”

At press time, John Hargrove of NV Energy hadn’t finalized the utility’s recommendations. Spokesperson Karl Walquist offered, “Our goal would be to find a way to make it easier and faster to get projects completed.”