By Daniel Rothberg, Las Vegas Sun: (TNS) — Elon Musk is lobbying Nevada lawmakers to support the development of rooftop solar energy, and he’s doing it with a face-to-face approach.
Musk, the chairman of SolarCity and CEO of Tesla Motors, welcomed a group of legislators and a state government leader to his company’s $5 billion Nevada battery factory this evening to discuss how Tesla’s home storage batteries can work in lockstep with rooftop solar.
The event, with presentations from Tesla and SolarCity, is meant to be forward-looking and educational but follows a recent regulatory ruling to increase solar customers’ bills. That order was derided by solar advocates and prompted SolarCity to cease installations here. The meeting represents the Silicon Valley entrepreneur’s most public acknowledgment of the decision and the solar industry’s push to roll back the new rate structure.
At 6 p.m., lawmakers and Gov. Brian Sandoval’s top economic development officer started a tour of the Tesla Gigafactory, for which Musk’s electric car and battery company received more than $1.3 billion in incentives during a special legislative session in 2014. The group will then hear presentations from Tesla’s top technology executive and SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. Musk, Rive and Nancy Pfund, a clean energy investor in both companies, will participate in a conversation with the state officials, a SolarCity spokesperson said.
Actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio, who was at the Gigafactory Wednesday for a meeting, met several of the attendees who participated in the event.
In January, Pfund, a managing partner at DBL Partners, wrote a letter with Silicon Valley investors that criticized the state’s Public Utilities Commission decision to raise costs for all rooftop solar customers. The commission tripled a fixed fee for the customers and slashed the value of credits they receive for generating excess electricity to the grid.
“I stand by my belief that when a state has a chance to lead, as Nevada has and could continue to do, that sends a very positive signal to investors,” Pfund said. “When it steps back, that sends a not-so-positive message.”
Pfund cast the event as an opportunity to discuss how Nevada could remain on the cutting edge of clean energy development. Nevada, she noted, had been a leader in solar job creation and in battery production.
“The one-two punch there is quite compelling,” she said. “We need to talk about how to regain the leadership that policymakers in this state have been forging for several years now.”