Sunday, January 10, 2016

RUN or Blame, A TASC Update

2015 ended with the Hawaii First Circuit Court dismissing The Alliance for Solar Choice's (TASC) Motion for Partial Summary judgement and ruled in favor of the Defendants' (Governor Ige and the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission) Motion for Summary Judgement to dismiss Counts I and II of TASC's lawsuit.  It appears that the Judge Gary Chang's ruling in favor of the Defendants has eviscerated TASC's claims.  The claims of TASC's lawsuit were:
  • Count I - PUC violated mandatory rule-making procedures.  TASC asserted that the PUC had to use Chapter 91 rule-making procedures to end the Net Energy Metering NEM program and to adopt the new tariffs.
  • Count II - PUC lacked statutory authority.  TASC asserted that the PUC did not have the authority to use its investigative powers to change the NEM program or establish the new tariffs.
  • Count III - TASC alleges that the PUC had to hold mandatory hearings.
  • Count IV - TASC accuses the PUC of discriminatory ratemaking.
  • Count V - TASC alleges a violation of due process as the PUC violated Chapter 91 rule-making procedures.
  • Count VI - TASC requests a declaratory judgement because the PUC violated the mandatory rule-making process.  (Note:  It appears this is more a prayer for relief than a claim.)
  • Count VII - TASC request a temporary injunction.  (Note:  Again, this is more a prayer for relief than a claim.)
As Counts III, IV and V are predicated on Counts I and II, and Counts VI and VII are prayers for relief, with the dismissal of Counts I and II there is really nothing of substance left in this lawsuit. With that said, TASC should face the reality and challenge of Hawaii's finite grid in bringing the best value proposition to all electric utility customers rather than just peddling its members highly subsidized third party ownership business model to pillage the electric system commons.

Also as we begin the new year, the core membership of the original TASC (SolarCity and Sunrun) have chosen to exit Nevada blaming regulatory decisions to end NEM programs.  Blaming Governor Sandoval and the Nevada PUC for their exit, SolarCity and Sunrun do not cite the fact that the most recent NV Energy utility scale photovoltaic power purchase agreement came in at $0.0387 per kWh, a price hard to compete against unless these companies can provide a clear value proposition to electricity customers.  An article from MIT Technology Review captures the economics of rooftop solar and here is an excerpt:
Events in Nevada, though, could signal a major reshaping of the economics of solar power for homeowners. The retail rate of electricity in Nevada is 12.39 cents per kilowatt-hour; the wholesale price for electricity in the region that includes Nevada averaged around two cents per kilowatt-hour in December. According to a report from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the cost of a residential solar system has fallen to around 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour. With federal and state subsidies and tax benefits, that figure drops to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour or less. If the retail rate for electricity from the grid (absent net metering fees) is less than that, solar is a poor investment; if it’s more, solar is a good investment. 
Many studies have examined the costs and benefits of net metering for both utilities and solar-owning customers, and their conclusions vary widely. A study carried out for the Nevada Public Utilities Commission found that net metering for systems installed between 2004 and 2016 would provide a benefit to non-solar owners of $36 million over the life of the systems. Others, however, have calculated that rooftop solar increases costs to the grid that surpass the value of the power. Responding to the Nevada decision, Severin Borenstein, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, wrote that “net metering is an inefficient and opaque way to support the growth of low-greenhouse-gas technologies, and should be replaced with more direct and transparent subsidies.” 
Ironically, while SolarCity has chosen to exit Nevada, Tesla's gigafactory was wooed to Nevada with $1.3 billion in tax incentives passed by the Nevada legislature in September 2015.  So what the Nevada PUC took away with its NEM decision, the Nevada Legislature gave back to Elon Musk thousands of times over.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you are covering this. The bottom line is everyone in solar hates Mr. Miller and his "TASC way of doing business"- You've noted that SolarCity pulled out months ago. TASC may have started with a bunch of national solar companies but they are down to Mr. Miller's media hungry self.