SolarCity to stop sales in Nevada after rate change

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Rooftop solar installation company SolarCity says it will stop selling and installing panels in Nevada after energy regulators decided to change the rate structure for solar customers.

SolarCity issued a statement Wednesday saying the Nevada Public Utilities Commission “effectively shut down” the rooftop solar industry with Tuesday’s decision, which is expected to raise rates over a five-year period for so-called net metering customers.

That includes about 17,000 Nevada customers with solar panels who sell excess energy from their systems back to NV Energy.  The commission says the change will reduce the cost-shift from rooftop solar customers to non-solar customers, and reflects the declining price of solar-generated power.

Some people paid for their panels outright hoping to save money in the long run.

So what about the people who lease solar panels that they may need to be eventually removed?

Nanette Verdin, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Premier Realty, says the next homeowner will be affected.

“Typically, if you’re buying a home, your gas, electric, and water — that’s not a part of your home-buying qualification for a home loan.  But this lease — because it’s such a hard cost and it’s attached to the property — it actually does hit the buyer,” Verdin said.

Verdin says it’s already having an impact.  She said one of her client’s recently inquired about a solar home, but the panels posed an extra cost.

“I reached out to the listing agent and said is this solar energy owned or leased and he said ‘oh it’s leased’ and I said well how much is the monthly lease; it was a $175 a month,” according to Verdin.

She said that client ended up turning down the home.

Solar customer Jenny Browdy blames state officials for this decision.

“PUC and NV Energy has made it so that we’re not saving; if anything, we might be paying more for our electricity having gone solar than if we had not gone solar; which makes zero sense to me,” Browdy said.

SolarCity says it’s hired more than 2,000 people in Nevada over two years, although it’s unclear whether those are full-time or temporary jobs.

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