tv PBS News Hour Weekend PBS February 28, 2016 5:30pm-6:01pm PST
captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for sunday february 28: campaign 2016 goes national, as the candidates criss-cross a dozen states before super tuesday. in our signature segment: the booming solar power industry faces a fight for its life in one of america's sunniest states. >> i was here two weeks ago with 550 of our people and we basically said, 'guys, we have no work for you. we have no work for you.' >> sreenivasan: and, an emerging ethiopian filmmaker provides a unique look at his country. next on pbs newshour weekend. >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: lewis b. and louise hirschfeld cullman. bernard and irene schwartz. judy and josh weston.
the cheryl and philip milstein family. the citi foundation. supporting innovation and enabling urban progress. the john and helen glessner family trust. supporting trustworthy journalism that informs and inspires. sue and edgar wachenheim, iii. corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we are your retirement company. additional support has been provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. from the tisch wnet studios at lincoln center in new york, hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: good evening and thanks for joining us. campaign 2016 is in the fly-by phase before primaries and caucuses in a dozen states two days from now, including seven southern states. today, democrat hillary clinton campaigned in tennessee and
arkansas, while her lone rival, vermont senator bernie sanders, was in minnesota, colorado, and oklahoma. the republicans-- businessman donald trump, florida senator marco rubio, texas senator ted cruz, ohio governor john kasich, and doctor ben carson-- campaigned across the south from georgia to oklahoma, and up north in massachusetts. former secretary of state clinton is riding momentum from last night's landslide win in south carolina. she won 73.5% of the vote to 26% for sanders, and captured 39 of the 53 delegates. clinton has 544 total delegates, including 453 superdelegates, those party officials who vote on the nominee at the national convention. sanders has 85 total delegates. 2,383 are needed to win. last night, clinton sounded like she was positioning herself for the general election, possibly against trump. >> we don't need to make america great again. america never stopped being great. >> sreenivasan: after winning in
south carolina, nevada, and new hampshire, trump leads the republican delegate count, with 82. cruz has 17, rubio, 16, kasich, 6 and carson, 4. 1,237 delegates are needed to win the republican nomination. cruz and rubio released their tax returns yesterday and are pressing trump to do the same. >> donald trump is clearly hiding something, and it's probably the fact that he doesn't make as much money as he says he does. >> sreenivasan: today, trump said he's not ready to release even a summary of his returns, because the i.r.s. is auditing him for at least the tenth time. >> until the audit is completed, obviously i wouldn't show anything, i'll show it as soon as it's completed. i have nothing to hide. >> sreenivasan: today, kasich lamented the personal insults dominating the rhetoric from trump, cruz, and rubio. >> the way in which you beat somebody like donald trump is not wrestling in the mud with him, but rather talking about your record, your accomplishments, and your vision. >> sreenivasan: at stake tuesday are roughly one-fourth of the delegates each party has to
choose its presidential nominee. the cease-fire in syria brokered by the united states and russia is showing cracks on its second day. syria's capital of damascus was calm, but opposition groups claimed syrian president bashar al-assad has violated the truce. the syrian observatory for human rights said today there were air strikes on two northern syrian villages, but didn't know who carried them out. the cease-fire covers government forces and opposition groups, but not militants of the islamic state group, or isis, or the nusra front, an al qaeda affiliate. joining me now by skype from turkey to talk about the syrian truce is "washington post" reporter liz sly. liz, the treus has been up for more than 24 hours. what are you hearing today? >> it's looking a little bit wobbly today. we have had quite a few russian air strikes, not as many as unusual but the number in the north of the country to let people know that the air strikes are back. and there has been some quite significant fighting in the east of the country which is some what separate from the syrian treus. this is islamic state attacking
america's kurdish allies in the north. and american warplanes have had to go and rescue them from what looked like quite a nasty situation. >> sreenivasan: so the islamic state was not party to the tru ce. >> right, and pretty of the day before the truce they stormed into a northern town in the kurdish self-proclaimed autonomous region that they are carving out up there. and they pretty much took control of the town for a few hours, they took over several buildings, they rampaged through the town, they beheaded a tribal leader and u.s. airplanes were called in and carried out a large number of strikes hitting their positions and taking it back for most of the town but we understand there are still islamic state people there, perhaps holding some hostages. >> sreenivasan: do the rebel groups that are party to this believe that this truce is a stepping stone to the longer lasting peace, or do they think it's a tack kal move by assad
and the russian sms. >> well, the rebels are extremely suspicious. the government helped by the russians now has the upper hand of fighting in syria. they have been making a lot of advances. nobody really sees what interest it is for the syrians at the moment, to abide by a truce to hold their gains. the syrian government has made it clear it believes with the russian support it can win this fight completely. so yes, a lot of rebels are deeply suspicious but at the same time they are on the back foot, they are not nearly in a position at the moment to challenge the truce and it could potentially work to their advantage if it does-- the front lines where they are right now. >> sreenivasan: what about the idea that in march 7th the u.n. can try to restart peace talks. is anybody on the ground thinking that far ahead? >> after what we have seen today with u.s. air strikes, new fighting, i think most people are a bit worried that the truce won't hold long enough. i think the powers are really very determined to have this happen and they could well usher their allies on the ground to those talks even if the fighting
does start up again. >> liz sly of "the washington post," joining us via scriep, thanks so much. >> thank you. >> sreenivasan: russian authorities have halted rescue operations at a coal mine where gas explosions killed 36 people. a methane gas leak triggered the explosions thursday in a mine north of the arctic circle. the mine collapsed, but rescuers saved 81 miners trapped underground. another explosion today killed five rescuers before the operation was called off. should americans be worried that aging voting machines could malfunction in the primaries or in the november election? read more at pbs.org/newshour. >> sreenivasan: since 2010, the number of american homes with rooftop solar systems has grown almost 20 times over, from 48,000 homes six years ago to more than 900,000 homes today. federal and state government incentives, as well as a drop in the cost of solar panels, have fueled the industry's growth,
but across the country traditional utility companies-- seeing solar as a threat-- are challenging the financial benefits homeowners have come to expect when they generate their own electricity. one place this battle is playing out is nevada, where higher utility charges for rooftop solar are now taking effect. in tonight's signature segment, special correspondent john larson reports on those changes and how they might affect the future of solar power across the country. >> we're not going to take it! we're not going to take it! >> reporter: the rhetoric in nevada sounds, at times, less like testimony on electricity rates and more like the runup to a las vegas prize fight. >> we should be promoting solar energy, not destroying it! >> talk to your representatives and fix this! >> reporter: that's because the clash between the state's most powerful electrical utility, nv energy, and the surging solar power industry has all the makings of a heavyweight bout. >> we bait and switched on our own citizens!
>> reporter: at stake is the future of solar energy in one of the sunniest places in the country. and how that will affect everyday nevadans, like pat and craig carrell. >> the day we moved here, the temperature was 115 degrees, so that was a welcome to nevada. >> reporter: former academics, the carrells moved to a retirement community outside of las vegas in 2002. what did you notice about the energy bills as it crept towards summer? >> they crept higher and the air conditioning kicks in, and our bills, over time rose to over $450. >> reporter: a month? >> yeah. >> reporter: to reduce their electric bill, the carrells added insulation to the attic and sunblocking ultraviolet film to the windows. then in 2014, they decided to go solar. >> so we've got panels up there and there. >> reporter: the carrells spent $45,000 dollars on roof solar panels for their two-bedroom home. federal government rebates and credits from the energy company reduced their out-of-pocket cost by more than 40%, and they
expected the rest of the investment to pay for itself through lower electric bills. on average, their bills dropped by about 95%. so in the hottest days of the summer, what you had been paying $400 or more, now what was it? >> that's when it went down to about $15. >> reporter: their bill was so low, because their solar panels produced most of their power, and because of a special arrangement with the utility company called net metering. across the country, net metering allows customers to sell excess power their solar panels generate during the day to the utility company, and buy the power back at night. that, along with federal and state incentives, helped nevada increase the amount of rooftop solar installed from 2014 to 2015 by more than 400%, becoming one of the fastest growing solar markets in the country. for customers worried about climate change, rooftop solar is carbon-free. >> so once they inspect it and
it passes inspection, three to four weeks after that you can turn it on. >> reporter: in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, nevada saw thousands of new solar-related jobs-- some created by solarcity, the nation's largest rooftop solar company, which with a state grant built its national customer call center in las vegas. >> you see all the trucks sitting here. >> reporter: marco krapels is solarcity's executive vice president for strategy. >> nevada is a great state for solar. there's 320 days of sunshine, rising utility rates. and we're giving people choice and the ability to fix their cost of power. it's a fantastic state. >> reporter: but krapels says the utility has a monopoly on electricity that is threatened by rooftop solar. >> now solar is becoming real. the utility monopolies are saying, ¡well wait a minute, ¡we've got to crush it before it gets too big.' they want to build more plants so they can make more money, and if we take a little bite out of that apple, and we say, ¡hey guys, we've got solar panels
everywhere on all these homes, you don't need to build them any more power plants.' then the utility goes, ¡well, wait a minute, how am i going to make more money next year?' >> reporter: now, after heavy lobbying by the utility company and solar companies, nevada's solar landscape has changed. last december 23, nevada's three member public utilities commission decided, to triple the basic service fee for rooftop solar from $12.75 a month, to more than $38 a month. the increases began january 1 and will be fully phased in over 12 years. the commission also decided nv energy no longer needed to credit customers with rooftop solar the retail rate for electricity, but instead would credit them closer to the wholesale rate, a 75% cut. in other words, the power company will gradually charge people with rooftop solar more to be connected to the grid and then give them less, a lot less, for the power they generate up on their roofs.
citing the pending rule changes, none of the public utility commissioners would agree to an interview. but staff member anne marie cuneo, who directs regulatory operations for the commission, did. >> the customers who are participating in net metering were not sharing in the costs of the utility's distribution and transmission system, the pipes and the wires that get the electricity to your home. >> reporter: cuneo says the rate changes were based on data provided by nv energy showing that solar users were not paying their fair share of the electric grid's operating costs. >> they were avoiding those costs, and those costs were getting shifted onto non- participating customers. >> reporter: how much cost was being shifted? >> according to the utility's figures, it was about $16 million a year. >> reporter: no one from nv energy would agree to an interview, but in a written statement to the newshour, the company said, "the net metering debate is not about nv energy being pro or anti-solar,
it's about who pays for solar. the new net metering rules and rates adopted in nevada will phase out the subsidy non-solar customers pay, which will be $100 million over the next 12 years." ashley brown is the executive director of the harvard electricity policy group, which receives funding from utility and energy companies. he believes rooftop solar owners are being paid too much for the energy they sell utility companies. >> because of the way it's priced, which is you're basically paying a retail price for what's a wholesale product, it's way overpriced. what's happened is the electricity market has become far, far more competitive. we've also seen the cost of renewable energy declining dramatically. >> reporter: opposing sides strongly disagree on whether there really is a cost to non- solar owners, and if there is, what that cost might be. but last year when the nevada legislature directed the public utility commission to review the issue, it asked the commission to consider only the costs of
rooftop solar, but none of its benefits. so, the benefits of distributed rooftop solar weren't really weighed into your recommendation? >> it wasn't, because this wasn't a cost benefit study. this was a cost study. and we were attempting to determine what sort of cost shift there was to the other customers. >> reporter: in nevada's third- largest city, reno, customers at another solar company, called sunworks began putting their orders on hold as soon as they heard of the rate changes. >> we've got his blueprints ready to go. >> reporter: project manager travis miller says more than one million dollars of work is in limbo. so they froze your business? >> frozen business. not a dime in revenue has come in our office since december 23. >> reporter: adding to its troubles, sunworks recently signed a three-year lease for more office space and a bigger warehouse. so literally it's empty for the next, well, however? >> for the foreseeable future, yeah. >> there's not a single truck arriving. there's not a single truck
leaving. >> back in las vegas, at solarcity, 550 jobs are gone. >> this was bustling. people were coming in and out, trucks in and out. this was one of our best warehouses in the country. >> reporter: none of the existing 17,000 nevada homeowners who already have rooftop solar panels, like pat and craig carrell, are exempt from the new solar rates. they will see their energy bills go up, . >> it's not the rules that we bought into, they changed the game on us. that was hard-earned savings, but we decided it was worth it to put it up on our roof, to have that kind of energy independence, and now it seems like it's gone. >> we have created a generator out here, we're like a little power company, that they did not have to pay for. >> reporter: you put it up? >> i put it up. i built the plant, and they're deriving the benefit from it. >> reporter: the public utility commission's regulatory operations staff director
rejects the notion that solar homeowners are being unfairly penalized with retroactive rate changes. >> i don't know where they got the idea that they were going to have a deal. the utilities interconnection agreement that i read says that the law can change and the rates can change. >> reporter: in the meantime, rooftop solar installations have effectively ground to a halt in nevada. ashley brown of the harvard electricity policy group argues net metering-- the paying of solar panel owners a full retail rate for their excess power-- has outgrown its usefulness. >> it was never meant to be a permanent subsidy. why would we devise a permanent subsidy for any technology? if you're going to have a subsidy, it's short term. it's designed to get things past the commercial hump. solar costs are declining rapidly. it's past the commercial hump. >> we would design a system at this size first. >> reporter: back in solarcity's new national call center in las vegas, the company is suddenly in the odd position of reaching
out to customers almost everywhere except nevada. >> it should be up to the public to decide. >> reporter: and laid-off solar workers, backed by solarcity, hope the state's voters will restore the previous rates for rooftop solar. >> sorry you lost your job. >> reporter: they are gathering signatures, hoping to get a referendum on the ballot in november. >> sreenivasan: as the film world turns its attention to hollywood and the 88th annual academy awards tonight, we take a look at one emerging filmmaker whose first feature has earned him critical acclaim and provides an unexpected look at his native country of ethiopia. the newshour's megan thompson reports. >> reporter: in the opening scenes of "lamb," a young boy wanders through breathtaking, green landscapes. it's not a place most people would recognize as ethiopia. >> it's an unknown and
unfortunately misunderstood part of the world. >> reporter: "lamb" is 37-year- old writer and director yared zeleke's first feature film. it's a tale of leaving home and innocence lost. and an ode to the beauty and cultural richness of the zeleke's native land, ethiopia, a nation of 100 million people in east africa. the film landed zeleke on the red carpet at the cannes film festival, the first time an ethiopian film was selected to be screened at the prestigious event. it also put zeleke on "variety" magazine's "10 screenwriters to watch" list. the film is about this nine- year-old boy, ephraim, who leaves home to live with his uncle, after his mother has died during a drought. his father needs to find work in addis ababa, the country's capital. >> reporter: his uncle threatens to slaugher ephraim's beloved pet lamb for food. the boy is miserable and alone.
>> reporter: zeleke says ephraim's story is like his own. he left ethiopia at age 10, escaping the famine and civil war of the mid-1980's for washington, d.c., to live with his father, whom he barely knew. >> everybody thought i was the luckiest kid. they called me the "lucky one." and america was a golden key. it was a dream. but for me, it was a nightmare because i left behind everyone i knew and loved. >> reporter: zeleke wanted the film not only to tell his story, but to reveal ethiopia's landscape, rich traditions, and religious diversity. >> and it's something you don't hear from, about ethiopia or africa in general, this beautiful way of being. >> reporter: zeleke's 50-person crew, mostly ethiopian, filmed for 36 days in remote, mountainous areas that lacked electricity. >> the local farmers didn't really know what we were doing. we were, like aliens with strange objects coming to do
some unknown experiment. so it took a while to gain their trust. >> reporter: all the actors are ethiopian, but few had ever acted professionally before. zeleke auditioned 7,000 people, half of them kids. some scenes are partly unscripted, like a traditional coffee ceremony. >> and i had to just tell them, "you know, forget the camera. and have your normal conversation about, you know, your animals or the upcoming holiday and things like that." >> reporter: the film also touches on ethiopia's persistent challenges, like drought and famine... >> reporter: ...which threaten the country even today." lamb" also criticizes aspects of the culture, like traditional gender roles. the uncle mocks ephraim for liking to cook. >> reporter: in other scenes, ephraim's teenage cousin tsion is pressured to marry and have children.
>> reporter: instead, she spends her time reading the newspaper and dreaming of going to college. tsion eventually runs away, which zeleke says is the true story of many young ethiopians who flee home in search of a better life. >> they defy the gender roles. and, of course, that was intentional on my part because these young kids, for me, are what i hope for the future of ethiopia, an ethiopia that's more educated, that's more equal among the different genders and that's more free. >> reporter: "lamb" will screen at film festivals throughout the u.s. this spring, and be available on itunes, amazon and on dvd later this year. zeleke says he hopes his tale about growing up and finding your way will resonate with audiences here, as it has abroad. >> that's really part of what i want to do is to connect us all as an ethiopian, as an american saying, "you know, there are all these differences. but fundamentally, we're pretty much the same."
>> this is pbs newshour weekend, sunday. >> sreenivasan: in iraq, isis has carried out assaults on iraqi soldiers and civilians in baghdad today. isis attacked iraqi security forces at a base on the outskirts of the capital and killed 12 government soldiers, according to iraqi officials, before soldiers repelled the attack. isis also claimed responsibility for today's twin suicide bombings in a crowded outdoor market. two attackers riding motorcycles blew themselves up, killing at least 70 people and wounding more than 100. early results in iran's national election show moderates aligned with incumbent president hassan rouhani sweeping all 30 parliament seats contested in the capital, tehran. while his party is not expected to win a majority of iran's 290- seat parliament, the results could be validation for rouhani, who reached the sanctions- lifting nuclear disarmament deal.
final results from friday's vote are not expected before tomorrow. astronaut scott kelly returns to earth tuesday after 340 consecutive days in space, a record for an american. this is a photo of yesterday's sunrise from kelley, who's been sharing images on twitter. this was his last moon photo posted today from aboard the international space station. nasa says kelly's 12 months in space will help prepare astronauts for a possible mission to mars. see more of scott kelly's mission this wednesday on pbs, in part one of "a year in space." >> there's no sun on your face. you never feel this cold breeze, it's always exactly the same. >> scott kelly is spending a year in space, traveling over 139 billion miles. >> if the tragic thing was to happen, i think it's worth it. being part of something larger
than yourself. >> sreenivasan: and finally, oscars aren't the only movie hon honors n annual preoscar ritual the golden rasp berry awards for hollywood's worst were handed out last knight. the steamy box office hit 50 shades of gray was named worst movie in a tie with the superhero flop fantastic four. follow tonight's academy awards with us on twitter and online at pbs.org/newshour. on tomorrow night's newshour, the latest on the racial for the white house as candidates dash across the widening election map before supertuesday. that's all for this edition of pbs newshour weekend, i'm hari sreenivasan, good captioning sponsored by wnet captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by:
lewis b. and louise hirschfeld cullman. bernard and irene schwartz. judy and josh weston. the cheryl and philip milstein family. the citi foundation. supporting innovation and enabling urban progress. the john and helen glessner family trust. supporting trustworthy journalism that informs and inspires. sue and edgar wachenheim, iii. corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. retirement company.your additional support has been provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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