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Action needed now to unwind solar nightmare

One of the odd realities of writing a column is that more people talk about your column when it doesn’t appear than when it does.

It’s both humbling and frustrating.

I’ve been reminded of both emotions these past few weeks.

First, with apologies to Mark Twain, I’ll say that reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Neither a bit of a surgery nor another sale of the paper was a factor in the column disappearing. Rather, it’s a product of a sort of seasonal affective disorder peculiar to business-to-business publications.

In the first few weeks of the year, many businesses find themselves trapped between a desire to start fast and a desire to build a little cushion in the operating budget. They recognize their B2B customers are in the same situation so they postpone some marketing expenses. We get it.

Faced with the resulting tight news hole, I simply thought Business Press readers would be better served by more news and less of my musings.

Thanks to everyone who expressed concerns. It’s nice to have loyal readers.

I’m here; you’re here. Let’s pick up where we left off….

Watching the escapades of the rooftop solar contretemps, I’m reminded of a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: A plague on both your houses.

To be accurate, we need to amend that to ‘all your houses’ because there are so many bad actors in this bit of theater.

Is the issue so shallow that the rooftop solar folks can be bought off by a proposal to grandfather the rates? There must be more to this than a few thousand homeowners, who didn’t read the fine print, trying to keep their early adopter bonus.

How about the solar companies and their employees? State incentives helped bring the jobs and fuel the acceleration of the business. Whose job was it to understand the political winds and stoke state’s commitment to solar? Bussing all those workers to pack the hearings is tacky and reinforces that idea that the whole issue is about protecting company and staff self-interests.

Speaking of self interest, nice ducking by the governor and the Legislature. You had too much on your plate with a record tax increase and chose to dump this hot potato on the bureaucrats. Bad news. It’s coming back around to bite you. There are good arguments on both sides. Pick one. Don’t hide from one of the signature issues of the decade.

Then there are the professionals – both the Public Utilities Commission and its staff — who got so lost in the minutiae of allocating costs that they lost sight of the big picture. This issue is about the future and Nevada’s place in it. How can we sell ourselves as a growing tech hub when we can’t get this one right?

And let’s not forget NV Energy who has tried to float above the fray while pulling the regulatory strings and trying to stifle all competition to its core business of generating power. The indictment leveled by the major casinos is that they can find power cheaper on the open market. That tells us all something is wrong with the system.

Despite all that, I’m going to cut NV Energy just a tiny bit of slack here. The company is trapped in a regulated industry in which the rules are outdated. NV Energy shouldn’t have to build a new fossil fuel plant to increase its profits. All of its business tentacles should be self-sufficient and when they are, solar will find its fair place in the system.

So we’ve come full circle to looking for an adult who can see what’s at stake and fix this. Governor Sandoval, come on down.

This is a mess that can’t wait for the 2017 Legislature to meet and form a task force that might return an answer in 2019. The governor needs to step in – either by executive order or by calling a special session. Negotiate a temporary rate fix that makes everybody unhappy but keeps the solar industry working while the really big fix of rewriting the whole energy policy gets cranking.

Delusional? Perhaps. But I’ve got an excuse. I’m under the care of a doctor (or three) and have been walking around town in a cute plastic neck brace for six weeks.

What’s the excuse for the key players in this drama?

As always, I’m glad to hear your thoughts on issues raised here. We accept letters to the editor and will consider columns offering divergent views. You’ll find me at nbell@BusinessPress.vegas.

 

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