Thanks to rooftop and distributed solar power throughout California, PG&E one of its largest utilities, has not had to invest $192 million in infrastructure costs. That’s because the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which operates the electric grid in the state, called for canceling 13 sub-transmission projects in its transmission plan for 2015 and 2016.
This flies in the face of what many utilities have been claiming for years, that solar power will require additional, more expensive grid upgrades. Meanwhile solar advocates like Vote Solar or the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) have pointed out that solar and energy efficiency upgrades can actually save money across the grid.
“It’s not everyday that you witness a major utility publicly confirming the savings that energy efficiency and rooftop solar can provide by making costly grid infrastructure projects unnecessary,” wrote Briana Kobor, Vote Solar’s program director of Distributed Generation Regulatory Policy.
It’s the latest in a growing body of evidence that shows how solar power and distributed solar power is actually a benefit to citizens and to the grid. For instance, a recent Brookings Institute report concluded that net-metered rooftop solar is a net benefit for all ratepayers and that utilities should look into ways they can adjust their business models to invest in or own and operate distributed generation.
“In regulatory proceedings across the country, we have long made the case that consumer investment in solar and other clean energy options can be a real cost-saver as it reduces the need for expensive new and upgraded utility infrastructure,” Kobor said. “Now, with solar on the rise, we’re seeing that promise turn into reality.”
What’s more, Eric Eisenman, PG&E’s director of ISO relations and FERC policy, told the CAISO board that the utility supported the cancellations. “The need for those is just not there anymore,” he testified as recounted by California Energy Markets.
“We really appreciate the reappraisal of those projects,” Eisenman said. He attributed the lessened need for additional infrastructure to a combination of energy efficiency and rooftop solar, which led to flattening the load on the grid.
“With strong energy policy and proper grid planning, we can make these kinds of savings—along with cleaner air and healthier communities—more commonplace for consumers all across the country,” Kobor said.Tweet