Report: Solar energy benefits vastly outweigh costs

Media Contacts

Environment Connecticut Research and Policy Center

Hartford, CT –Homes and businesses with solar panels deliver more value to power customers and society than they receive through programs like net metering, a report said today, countering claims from utilities that solar power owners don’t pay their fair share of electric grid costs.

“While utilities claim solar panel owners shift-costs onto other ratepayers, this report shows the opposite is probably true,” said Environment Connecticut State Director Chris Phelps. “If anything, utilities should pay people who go solar more, not less.”

The report, released by Environment Connecticut Research & Policy Center, Shining Rewards: The Value of Rooftop Solar Power for Consumers and Society, reviewed recent studies from across the country showing that solar power customers generally provide more value to the grid than they receive from net metering policies.

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 and their allies have attacked the programs, declaring them unjustified “subsidies.”

Today’s report tells a different story. Of the 11 net metering studies reviewed, all found that solar panel owners offered power customers net benefits, such as reduced capital investment costs, avoided energy costs, and reduced environmental compliance costs.

Eight of the 11 studies reviewed in the report found the value of solar energy was higher than the average local residential retail electricity rate. The median value of solar to the grid across all the studies was nearly 17 cents per kilowatt hour, significantly higher than average electric rates. In other words: rather than a subsidy, utility net metering programs tend to underpay solar panel owners for the value of the solar energy they produce.

“Connecticut has seen nearly 50% annual growth of solar power over the past 4 years,” concluded Phelps. “This report provides further evidence that solar doesn’t just play a big role in cutting pollution from power plants, but it can also strengthen our economy and reduce the cost of our electric system.”