Solar panel providers gained a small victory in their fight to restore solar subsidies Tuesday after Nevada voters approved ballot measure deregulating the state’s public utility.
Voters passed the Energy Choice Initiative, or Question 3, which calls on lawmakers to split up the state’s electrical market and end the utility company’s legal monopoly. The amendment was spurred in part by massive companies seeking to leave NV Energy and find their own providers.
The initiative must pass another round of voting in 2018 before it can become a constitutional amendment.
Approving the measure would essentially mean that Nevada’s constitution officially sanctions lucrative subsidies to solar panel providers like SolarCity.
The move to deregulated likely comes as a result of a decision in 2015 by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to hike fees on homes affixed with solar panels, a move that basically kicked SolarCity out of the state.
The PUC at the time imposed rules effectively ending net-metering, a type of tool allowing solar panel owners to sell excess energy back to the utility company. It all but forced electrical utilities to buy the energy produced by rooftop solar panels at near-retail rates.
SolarCity CEO Elon Musk, a major recipient of the solar subsidies, decided to leave the state shortly after the rule-change, claiming such subsidies affect the company’s bottom line.
PUC’s decision prompted the mega-solar panel company to send hundreds of Nevadans scurrying for unemployment lines. SolarCity says it will relocate former employees.
Musk eventually made good on previous threats to drop 550 energy jobs if the PUC altered net-metering.
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