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Electrician Mario Rojas with 1 Sun Solar carries a ladder to inspect solar panels in Las Vegas on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

A Senate committee introduced and approved an amendment lowering but keeping in place more favorable net metering rates for rooftop solar customers, paving a path forward for one of the most publicized energy-related bills of the session.

The amendment to AB405, which was approved unanimously Friday by a legislative panel, revises a proposal aiming to reimburse rooftop solar customers for the “excess” energy they push back to the grid at a percentage tied to the retail rate of electricity.

The amendment would keep in place the immediate 95 percent rate of retail electricity that rooftop solar customers would get from excess produced energy, but would only apply it to the first 80 megawatts of rooftop solar generation from applicants, or roughly one percent of overall rooftop solar penetration.

The percentage “tiers” would continue to decline every additional 80 megawatts of rooftop solar energy, to levels of 88, 81 and a floor of 75 percent. It’s lower than the rates proposed in the current bill, and modifies the “tiers” to be based on megawatts, instead of percentage of rooftop solar penetration.

Democratic Sen. Kelvin Atkinson said that the new “tiers” were a compromise, but said legislators would likely be able to revisit the percentages and the program as a whole next session before the final 75 percent tier is reached. The proposed lower tiers were suggested by NV Energy, according to a presentation on the amendment.

The bill also requires the state’s Public Utilities Commission to create an investigatory docket studying how greater net metering adoption effects other ratepayers to the legislature by 2020.

It will still require that customers who enroll in the net metering program at a certain rate be allowed to receive that rate for at least 20 years, and includes new language designed to protect rooftop solar customers from any changes if Question 3 — which would make Nevada a retail energy market — passes again in 2018 and take effect in 2023.

In one of the first legislative moves to begin preparing for a retail energy market, the bill requires that future retail providers continue to provide net metering reimbursement rates to customers who enroll pre-market deregulation.

It also added in language designed to allow rooftop solar customers to file complaints to the PUC, and revises a portion dealing with safety for utility workers.

Rooftop solar companies immediately heralded the vote as a win.

“The unanimous support gained in the Senate today reflects the hard work and compromise that went into this bill,” Sunrun executive Alex McDonough said. We're confident that in the little time that remains, legislators will move quickly to support this bill and restore the jobs and clean energy that the solar industry brings to Nevada

Legislators on Wednesday said they were close to a deal on the measure, and had been meeting with interested parties throughout the week to hammer out the details. Gov. Brian Sandoval said that restoring net metering was a “priority” for him in an interview last week, but wanted to make sure that new customers were protected if the deregulation ballot question passes again in 2018.

The bill passed out of the Assembly on a 38-2 vote in May.

This story was updated at 11:30 a.m. to reflect the committee passage and more details of the bill.

Disclosure: NV Energy has donated to The Nevada Independent. You can see a full list of donors here.
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