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Solar advocates upset Sandoval rejected community solar, higher renewable standard

The passage of AB 405 in the Nevada Senate could help revive solar companies such as Sun Solar Electric. (Chad Graves/KSNV)

Solar energy made what appears to be a bright turnaround in the Nevada Legislature this year, despite Gov. Brian Sandoval's Friday night veto of two bills.

Businesses, community leaders and clean-energy advocates said the vetos of a stronger clean energy standard and community solar gardens for Nevada was a serious misstep on Sandoval's part, but would not stop the state from developing a vital clean energy economy.

Sandoval vetoed Assembly Bill 206, a measure that would have increased the percentage of clean energy Nevada generates to 40 percent by 2030. The current standard is 25 percent by 2025.

He also vetoed Senate Bill 392, which would have allowed neighborhoods to work together to establish shared community solar systems, or gardens, for Nevadans who otherwise would be denied access to clean solar energy.

Uncertainty in the evolving alternative energy market was a factor in both vetoes released by Sandoval’s office Friday evening. Sandoval said in his veto of the community solar bill that it could conflict with Assembly Bill 405, a bill he signed Thursday to raise credits for rooftop solar customers under a structure known as net metering.

The net metering bill is expected to drastically strengthen the rooftop solar industry in Nevada, Sandoval said.

Several rooftop solar companies are already starting to hire in anticipation of new business.

“SB392 attempts to link itself to AB405 by requiring the solar energy credits to be the same for both rooftop solar and community solar gardens,” Sandoval’s veto says. “Although I am confident that the system set up by AB405 will be beneficial to Nevada and its solar energy economy, it is unclear whether these bills are compatible or conflicting.”

However, the bills were two of 11 clean energy and energy efficiency bills supported by the RenewNV partnership of allied organizations in the recent session of the Legislature, and the other nine bills have been signed into law by the governor.

"These bills will improve access to energy efficiency for renters and people on fixed incomes, restore the residential rooftop solar industry, and establish a clean-energy-first policy for developing new power sources for Nevada," stated a RenewNV news release issued Saturday morning. "Together, the suite of legislation has laid the foundation for a strong and growing renewable energy economy that will promote job growth and continued investment in Nevada’s clean energy economy."

Clean energy advocates applauded the energy legislation that was signed while expressing disappointment with the vetoes.

“We are deeply disappointed that Governor Sandoval chose to veto legislation that would have made Nevada an emerging leader in clean energy and an advocate for working class families who support a clean energy economy," said Rudy Zamora, director of Chispa Nevada, a project of the League of Conservation Voters. "Assembly Bill 206 was supported by 84 percent of Nevadans of color. Missing the opportunity to put thousands of people to work, while helping families to save money on energy bills, once again puts polluters first -- allowing Nevada to continue importing most of its energy from out-of-state fossil fuels. Our communities deserve better. This veto does not take away from the tremendous work Nevadans of color did this session to advance clean energy priorities for our communities. We will continue organizing and holding decision makers like Gov. Sandoval accountable."

"In light of the many other policies advanced to expand clean energy this session, Governor Sandoval's veto of this bill increasing access to solar energy is very troubling," said Rev. Leonard B. Jackson with the Faith Organizing Alliance of Las Vegas. "Solar is clean, provides opportunities for jobs, and offers low-cost and stable energy prices, and every resident in Nevada should have access to those benefits."

Jessica Scott, Interior West Director for Vote Solar, said the adoption of clean energy measures approved over the last two weeks provided a model for other states to follow.

“While Governor Sandoval's veto to increasing Nevada's renewable energy goals is a missed opportunity to strengthen the Silver State's leadership, the nine energy bills signed into law this year signal that Nevada will once again participate in our nation's growing clean energy economy,” Scott said.

“After a legislative session filled with clean and renewable energy successes, we are disappointed Governor Sandoval vetoed the bill that would raise Nevada's clean energy standards and boost our twenty-first century, clean energy economy. Regardless, the remaining suite of clean energy bills Governor Sandoval did sign arrived on his desk thanks to the cooperation of advocates, business leaders, and legislators from both sides of the aisle who believed we could grow our economy, cut energy bills for people on fixed incomes, and restore the rooftop solar industry in our state,” said Sondra Cosgrove, president of the League of Women Voters of the Las Vegas Valley. “We anticipate a bright future as companies stream into Nevada to tap into our clean energy markets, and as we embark on sustainable job growth in the years to come.”

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