Report: Solar energy benefits vastly outweigh costs

Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center

View full report here.

Denver, CO–Households and businesses with solar panels deliver greater benefits than they receive through programs like net metering, a report said today, countering increasing complaints from utilities that solar homeowners don’t pay their fair share.

 “While some utilities claim they’re subsidizing solar panel owners, our report shows the opposite is probably true,” said Kim Stevens, state director with Environment Colorado.  “If anything, utilities should be paying people who go solar more, not less.”

 The Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center report, Shining Rewards: The Value of Rooftop Solar Power for Consumers and Society, comes as the PUC considers a docket from Xcel Energy considering the future of net-metering, a key financial incentive for installing rooftop solar.

 Net metering programs credit solar panel owners at 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 across the country, but in recent years utilities have increasingly attacked them as unjustified “subsidies.”

 Today’s report tells a different story. Of the 11 net metering studies reviewed, eight 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 11 studies was nearly 17 cents per unit, compared to the nation’s average retail electricity rate of about 12 cents.  

 In other words: utilities were likely underpaying solar panel owners, not subsidizing them. 

 All 11 of the studies found that solar panel owners offered the electric system as a whole net benefits, including reduced capital investment costs, avoided energy costs, and reduced environmental compliance costs.  

 Solar advocates hope today’s report would shed new light on the debate over the state’s net metering program. 

“Solar power’s rewards are far greater than its costs,” said Stevens. “We should be encouraging even more solar, not penalizing it.”


Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.