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Rooftop Solar: Net-Metering or Net-Mooching?

In a letter to the editor published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal on TuesdayMark Leon writes…

“My rooftop solar panels generate more power than I need during the day, but I use that extra power at night.  That’s called net-metering.  NV Energy wants future solar customers to make use of whatever generated energy they can during the day, and NV Energy keeps the rest. That’s called stealing.”

No, that’s called misinformation.

Like many people, Mr. Leon doesn’t understand that when it comes to electricity you either use it or lose it – unless it’s stored in a battery.  So the “extra” energy Mr. Leon generates during the day over and above what he uses in his home can’t be saved to be used in his home at night.

For nighttime electricity, Mr. Leon still needs to buy it from NV Energy – or equip his house with some very expensive batteries to store the extra energy generated during the day for nighttime use.

In addition, NV Energy does not, and cannot, “keep the rest” of the extra energy generated during the day by rooftop solar users.  They have to either use it or lose it. That’s not called “stealing.”  That’s called “reality.”

What Mr. Leon fails to note – or probably doesn’t even realize – is that NV Energy is forced to buy his “extra” energy during the day at a rate higher than it could purchase or generate on its own from other means.  And that means a higher cost for energy production for the rest of us who don’t have rooftop solar systems.

What “net-metering” means is that instead of paying cash directly to rooftop solar owners for the “extra” energy they generate and provide to NV Energy during the day – as long as it’s sunny outside – they are given a credit towards the energy those rooftop solar system owners use from NV Energy at night and on cloudy days.

But again, here’s the thing: Rooftop solar system owners are credited the retail rate for electricity at night that is usually generated by NV Energy using clean coal and natural gas for less money.  That difference is money ratepayers who don’t have rooftop solar systems eat through higher electric bills.

Look, if you want to purchase a rooftop solar system with your own money – without taxpayer subsidies from the federal government – and not have to purchase electricity from NV Energy during the day…vunderbar!

And if you want to purchase a battery system with your own money – without taxpayer subsidies from the federal government – and not have to purchase electricity from NV Energy during the night…vunderbar!

But why should NV Energy – and its non-solar ratepayers – be forced to buy your “extra” energy during the day if it doesn’t need it or can purchase or generate it elsewhere cheaper?

And why should NV Energy – and its non-solar ratepayers – be forced to credit your nighttime usage at the retail rate for your “extra” daytime energy production it didn’t need or want?

If you want credit for nighttime usage, you should get compensated at the wholesale market rate for what NV Energy and its ratepayers would otherwise pay for non-rooftop solar generated energy.

I have no problem with rooftop solar owners not paying NV Energy for electricity they don’t need during the day.  But don’t expect taxpayers and non-solar ratepayers to subsidize your decision for the energy you still need at night and on cloudy days.

That’s called “net-mooching.”