There is an old adage in the West: “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting”. I think it’s safe to say that Westerners also love to fight about solar. The Mountain West has sunshine galore—a resource unmatched by anything except the independent, fighting spirit of the Wild West. In this turbulent age of division and polarization, it’s refreshing that 2017 will go down in the history books as one of the most successful years for solar victories. Here’s a recap of Vote Solar’s 2017 Interior West campaigns...
Nevada was dealt one of the worst policy blows in US history in late 2015 by the PUCN, but Vote Solar and an enormous coalition of partners helped mobilize solar advocates to bring a tsunami of public support to the 2017 Nevada Legislature resulting in the passage of 11 clean energy bills. Nevada’s historic victory (and the many legislative champions that made it impossible including Senator Spearman, Assemblyman Anderson, and Assemblyman Brooks) are highlighted in The Redford Center's new clean energy documentary “Happening” (premiering on HBO on December 11)!
Xcel Energy filed a stipulation in August with a broad coalition of 14 diverse groups, including Vote Solar, for a proposed Colorado Energy Plan currently before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. If approved by the PUC, Xcel Energy can increase renewable energy to 55% by 2026. That’s 1.7 GIGAWATTS of new wind and solar. The plan also calls for the consideration of the early retirement of two coal plants (660 MW) in southern Colorado.
In March, Vote Solar and Earthjustice reached a settlement in an Arizona Public Service Company (APS) Rate Case that will impact solar energy options for customers of the state’s largest utility. Renewable energy advocates consider the settlement a significant improvement from APS’s original proposal, which had called for a number of unfair and unjustified anti-solar provisions, including new mandatory demand charges and discriminatory rates for its solar customers.
Vote Solar with its legal partner Quinn Emanuel spent the better part of the first eight months of 2017 engaged in intensive negotiations with about 20 parties in an effort to resolve the Rocky Mountain Power proposal to segregate solar customers and impose demand charges on them. With the hearing looming, a settlement was reached that advocates hope will keep the local solar market alive for three years until the conclusion of the next proceeding addressing export rates. Vote Solar and others decided not to sign on to the accord, as we do not believe it is a good model for other states.
Passing clean energy bills is step one. Step two is making sure those bills are fairly and fully implemented. We’ve got lots of implementation work ahead in Nevada, and we won’t rest until Nevadan’s get the RPS expansion and community solar they want so badly (both bills were vetoed by Governor Sandoval).
Similarly, we’re gearing up for a big clean energy push in the 2019 New Mexico legislative session to expand the RPS and allow access to community solar.
In Arizona, the discussion about rate design for solar customers continues in the TEP and UNS rate cases. While Vote Solar was able to reach a settlement agreement with APS, the case for TEP and UNS will be put in front of the Commission in 2018. These utilities are continuing to push for unfairly low export rates as well as discriminatory fixed charges in excess of $20 per month. Vote Solar will continue to oppose these proposals and advocate for fair treatment for these Arizona ratepayers.
You can be sure Vote Solar will keep fighting on the front lines in PUC hearing rooms and state houses across the Mountain West to make solar affordable and accessible to everyone.