Report: Utilities Vastly Undervalue Solar Energy

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Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center

Atlanta, GA –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 Jennette Gayer, Director with Environment Georgia.  “If anything, utilities should be paying people who go solar more, not less.”

The Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center report, Shining Rewards: The Value of Rooftop Solar Power for Consumers and Society, comes during an ongoning debate at Georgia’s Public Service Commission about the value of solar to Georgia Power.

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.  Georgia’s average residential retail rate is 10.58 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. 

“As a local elected official in Georgia, I believe it is my duty to save my constituents money while moving towards a sustainable future,” said Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Melissa Link.  “Implementing solar energy in Athens’ municipal facilities can greatly lower operating costs and allow us to pass the savings on to taxpayers and better fund services or improve infrastructure to benefit all our citizens—this works best when utilities properly calculate the true value of clean, fossil-fuel free power,” added Link.

As Georgia gears up for the 2016 Integrated Resource Planning process, solar advocates hoped today’s report would shed new light on the debate over the value of solar to utilities and urge Public Service commissioners to determine the true value of solar power in Georgia

“Solar power’s rewards are far greater than its costs,” said Rev. Kate McGregor Mosley, Director of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light. “It’s good for our communities. It’s good for our economy. We need to be encouraging more solar, not penalizing it.”