Daylight Robbery in Nevada

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on February 29, 2016 in Money Saving Strategies, Personal Finances

It’s another sunny summer’s day here in the “Paris of the South,” Buenos Aires.

Lush Jacaranda trees line the streets around our neighborhood. Their gnarled branches stretch upward to catch the light.

An impressive array of hanging plants dangle from apartment balconies. Vines creep along the walls.

In our own window boxes, we keep various flowers and herbs. The scent of albahaca (basil) romero (rosemary) and menta (mint) fills our office. It’s a pleasant place to work. And to think…

We’ve been ruminating of late on the subject of independence. How to enjoy a freer, better, more self-reliant experience.

“Our life is frittered away by detail,” observed Henry David Thoreau—America’s original “back to nature” guru—long before social media and reality television and mindless consumerism took over the world.

The old man’s advice to combat the creep of this mental and physical clutter?
“Simplify, simplify.”

Sounds simple enough, no?

We tend to think of “more” as being the goal. We want more money…more countertop space…more “likes” on Facebook.

Maybe the key lies with less.

Less debt. Less “stuff.” Less distraction.

And less reliance on fragile systems to provide the basics in life.

But what happens when, like a spurned ex-spouse, the system you’re trying to free yourself from won’t let you go?

At least, not without a fight?

A frightening story just out of Nevada provides one such example. As usual, the good folk over at TheFreeThoughtProject.com are on the case…

While Nevadans were celebrating the holidays under solar-powered lights, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted unanimously to increase a monthly fee on solar customers by 40% while reducing the amount they get paid for excess power sold to the grid. Adding insult to injury, they made the rate changes retroactive, sabotaging consumer investments in solar energy.

This single move by government regulators will effectively kill the solar industry in Nevada and put an end to the surge of people seeking to detach from the grid by harnessing their own energy from the sun. Just as importantly, it serves to protect the profits of Nevada’s public utility company, NV Energy.

Hmm…a governing body serving the interests of a coddled monopoly ahead of the community’s? Sounds vaguely familiar…

Absurd though it may be, this is not the first instance of a state waging war on the sun…and on those of us who depend on its life-giving force.

For an earlier instance, let us reach a little further back in the history books. Apologies if you already know the story…

The year was 1696. The place, England. The legislation:

“An Act for granting to His Majesty several Rates or Duties upon Houses for making good the Deficiency of the clipped Money.”

The “clipped money” in question actually bore the head of one King William III, the nation’s sovereign. And its value was rapidly diminishing.

In plain English language, “The ol’ blighter was flat broke.”

Alas, raising money through a direct income tax was a wildly unpopular proposal at the time. The English simply viewed compulsory disclosure of their private income as an unacceptable governmental intrusion into their lives. Imagine!

(Interestingly, the country muddled along well enough without any income tax until 1842, and even then it remained a controversial topic until the mid-20th century. These days, Queen Elizabeth II’s domestic subjects don’t seem to mind it so much. The lower “basic rate” of income tax in England today is 20%. The top rate is 45%.)

Rather than run the risk of unsettling the hoi polloi, King Willy instead opted for the more covert Window Tax (as the above Act came to be known).

The idea was mostly seen as a wealth tax, as larger residences typically came equipped with—surprise—larger windows. The tax had two basic parts…a flat tax on all houses with windows followed by a “variable rate” on each individual window above a certain number.

The result of the Act was also twofold…

First, people were predictably upset at essentially having the little daylight that crept through their windows being taxed. If you’ve been to England anytime outside of about two weeks during mid-July, you’ll know what a rare and precious commodity sunlight is in that damp corner of the world.

Second, the so-called “commoners” responded to the law with what may fairly be described as some good old “commoner sense.” Unable to afford the new taxes—or just unwilling to pay them—people simply bricked up their windows.

No windows=no tax. And, of course, no daylight.

Hence the phrase, “daylight robbery.”

Unpopular though the tax was, it remained in place for no fewer than 156 years…a fitting testament to the swift responsiveness of state bureaucracy everywhere.

The law also spread north to the darker climes of Scotland and over the Channel to France. Not to be outdone, Ireland and Wales adopted their own versions too.

Fast-forward to 2016 and we find the government’s grudge against the center of the solar system is alive and well.
At least two companies—SolarCity and Sunrun—have already left sunny Nevada as a result of the new tax there. They take with them over 1,000 jobs. One would reasonably expect more companies to follow in the search for bluer regulatory horizons.

“It will destroy the rooftop solar industry in one of the states with the most sunshine… There is so much wrong with the decision,” SolarCity CEO Lydon Rive told The Free Thought Project. “The one beneficiary of this decision would be NV Energy, whose monopoly will have been protected.”

Private individuals cooperating to forge a brighter future for all…and the “system” under which they labor working to deliver them back to the Dark Ages.

Same ol’, same ol’, in other words…

At least our humble, window box basil escapes the watchful eye of the powers-that-be…for now.

P.S. Among other things, independent living means freeing yourself from unreliable and costly public systems. (We’re looking at you, good people of Nevada…) It means being able to “go your own way” should you wish to do so…

To that end, we’ve dedicated a whole section of a new “manifesto” we’re working on to the idea of individual energy independence. We’ve packed it with helpful tools and resources to help you to declare your own independence from thinking that, quite frankly, belongs in the Dark Ages.

We’re hoping to have this “manifesto” finished by mid next week, when we’ll present it to you personally right here in the pages of Truth & Plenty. Watch this space…

Image ©iStock.com/4kodiak

T&P Tool Shed
The House of the Rising Sun

Our friends in Nevada might be out of luck (for now), but for the rest of us solar energy still represents an incredible opportunity to remove ourselves from a corrupt public system.

Depending on where you live and the size of your home, a solar system can drastically reduce, or even eliminate, your electric bills. The initial installation can be pricey (depending on the size of your system and the location of your home, startup can range from $5,000 to $35,000) but most companies offer payment plans and incentives. And—thanks to the Energy Policy Act 2005—you’ll receive tax credit equal to 30% of the value of your system.

Try out this solar calculator from energysage.com to estimate how much solar could save you on your monthly energy bills.—Ed