After Nevada’s governor yanked solar power subsidies for customers, Elon Musk’s mega-solar panel company SolarCity decided to make good on its threat to drop 550 energy jobs in the state.
Nevada’ Public Utilities Commission (PUC), guided by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, decided to change the state’s government-mandated solar metering rules last month. With the rule change, solar panel customers will now get paid substantially less for the energy their panels generate. The commission also increased the service charge customers must pay to have the panels.
All told, the rule change means the service charge for panels will increase 40 percent from $12.75 to $17.90 per month in the southern part of the state and 38 percent for those in the northern section of Nevada.
As a result, one of the biggest recipients of the subsidy, SolarCity, has decided that it can no longer do business in an an environment that is bereft of government support. PUC’s decision prompted the mega solar panel company to send hundreds of Nevadans scurrying for unemployment lines. SolarCity says it will relocate former employees.
“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,” SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive told a reporter with StreetInsider.com.
He added: “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.”
Musk, the titular head of SolarCity, warned the PUC and Governor Sandoval last month that the solar panel power giant planned on pulling out of Nevada after the state commission repealed subsidies propping up the state’s solar power industry.
Tesla’s CEO scored a massive $1.4 billion subsidy from Nevada’ legislature to build a massive solar power factory for Tesla — the subsidy for the factory was part of a $4.9 billion public windfall Musk received from the state for propping up all of his alternative energy ventures.
“He definitely goes where there is government money,” Dan Dolev, an analyst at Jefferies Equity Research, said. “That’s a great strategy, but the government will cut you off one day.”
And now it has.
Some renewable energy activists are fighting the PUC decision. The Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection, an organization that seeks to defends solar power consumers, filed a motion to grind the PUC’s new rules to screeching halt. The group stated that the ruling “is not consistent with the Governor’s stated objectives of SB 374 or the Governor’s initiatives and focus to increase jobs and employment for Nevada residents.”
The news of SolarCity’s decision to slash jobs comes off the tails of the U.K. decision in December to ratchet down by 65 percent subsidies given to public utility customers looking to install solar panels on their homes.
SolarCity blamed the firings on Nevada, suggesting that the repeal of the subsidies was the reason for the the company’s decision.
“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,” Rive said.