SolarCity plans layoffs in Nevada after state PUC decision

SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY) said Jan. 6 that it will eliminate more than 550 jobs in Nevada because of a ruling by that state’s Public Utilities Commission that will “punish” the rooftop solar industry.

SolarCity said in a news release that the PUC’s December decision on net metering will effectively punish solar customers after a rebate program had encouraged them to go solar.

The non-utility solar company is also closing a training center in West Las Vegas that it opened only a month before. The company also said that the Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection is filing a motion to halt implementation of the PUC ruling.

The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) voted 3-to-0 on Dec. 22 to approve a draft order proposed by Commissioner David Noble implementing new rates for NV Energy customers who participate in net energy metering.

SolarCity and other third-party solar companies have claimed that the PUC decision largely benefits NV Energy and its corporate parent, Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

The measure represents the commission’s effort to implement Senate Bill 374. The measure from the state legislature instructed the PUCN to examine rates applicable to net metering customers and to identify and eliminate any “unreasonable shifts in costs from net metering customers to other customers,” according to the Nevada PUC.

SolarCity’s CEO Lyndon Rive hopes to personally express the company’s displeasure to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R).

“I contacted Governor Sandoval multiple times after the ruling because I am convinced that he and the PUC didn’t fully understand the consequences of this decision, not only on the thousands of local jobs distributed solar has created, but on the 17,000 Nevadans that installed solar with the state’s encouragement,” Rive said.

“I’m still waiting to speak to the Governor but I am convinced that once he and the Commissioners understand the real impact, that they will do the right thing,” Rive said.

Governor dislikes ‘bullying’ by rooftop solar industry

In a Dec. 23 statement, Sandoval said the PUC action should not come as a surprise to the rooftop solar industry. The governor also said that critics of the decision can always appeal the measure.

“The rooftop solar industry has known for months that the Public Utilities Commission was tasked by the legislature to review the net metering rates in Nevada by the end of the year,” Sandoval said. “Indeed, the solar industry, including Lyndon Rive, CEO of Solar City, testified in support of the legislation that established this process. The companies also know that if they disagree with the PUC’s decision, that they can seek reconsideration and ultimately judicial review,” the governor said.

“Instead, they have attempted to pressure my office to improperly influence the PUC’s independent decision making process and resorted to bullying tactics such as threatening mass layoffs of Nevadans,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval went on to say that he supports solar power in the state and more than $5bn in renewable projects have been installed in Nevada in recent years. “However, the state must also strike a balance between helping to develop the solar industry which I believe has tremendous potential while ensuring just and reasonable energy rates for all Nevadans,” the governor said.

SolarCity announced Dec. 23 that as a result of the PUC decision, it had to cease solar sales and installation in the state effective immediately.

“Telling employees they can no longer work for SolarCity is the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” continued Rive. “These are hard-working Nevadans and a single government action has put them out of work. This is not how government is supposed to work.”

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at