Counter to Utility Claims, Solar Users Provide Net Benefits
Environment California Research & Policy Center
Los Angeles, CA – Solar panels provide pollution-free energy that delivers far-reaching benefits to the environment and the electric grid, said a new report released today by Environment California Research & Policy Center. The report outlines how solar panels on homes, schools and businesses often provide more benefits than they receive through programs like net metering, counter to utility claims that solar owners don’t pay their fair share.
“Solar power’s rewards are far greater than its costs,” said Michelle Kinman. “We should be encouraging even more solar, not penalizing it.”
Environment California Research & Policy Center report, Shining Rewards: The Value of Rooftop Solar Power for Consumers and Society (2016 edition), comes as policymakers around the state and the country consider proposals from utilities to undermine successful solar energy programs, including net metering.
Solar energy on rooftops can help communities to avoid greenhouse gas emissions, reduce air pollution harmful to public health and create local jobs, the report shows. Net metering programs credit solar panel owners when they generate more power than they use, providing electricity for other customers. Utilities then credit solar panel owners a fixed rate – often the retail price of electricity – for providing excess power to the grid, similar to rollover minutes on a cell phone plan.
The arrangements have helped solar energy skyrocket, but in recent years utilities have increasingly attacked them as unjustified “subsidies”.
Today’s report tells a different story. An examination of studies from around the country shows that the dollar and cents value of solar is often higher than the credit utilities provide to customers.
Of the 16 studies reviewed, 12 found that the value of solar energy was higher than the average local residential retail electricity rate. The median value of solar power across all 16 studies was around 16 cents per unit, compared to the nation’s average retail electricity rate of about 13 cents per unit.
In other words: utilities were likely underpaying solar panel owners, not subsidizing them.
“Rooftop solar users are givers, not takers, when it comes to the value they provide to society and the electric system.” said Kinman. “In many cases it appears that solar programs are a bargain for utilities, not a burden.”
All 16 studies found that solar panel users offered the electric system net benefits.
“There’s so much to gain by going big on solar, but so much to lose if some utilities get their way,” said Kinman. “Let’s make sure we take full advantage of all the benefits by allowing solar to continue to grow all across California.”