Rooftop solar, and particularly net-metering, is increasingly under attack by many utilities across the U.S. Such entities claim they’re subsidizing solar panels, creating costs that other ratepayer must cover. However, a new report from Environment America and the Frontier Group, Shining Rewards: The Value of Rooftop Solar Power for Consumers and Society, finds that utilities are likely paying less than the value that rooftop solar provides them and their customers.
“While some utilities claim they’re subsidizing solar panel owners, our report shows the opposite is probably true,” said Rob Sargent, senior program director at Environment America and the report’s co-author. “If anything, utilities should be paying people who go solar more, not less.”The report evaluated 11 net metering studies in markets across the U.S. Of those, eight found that the value of solar energy was higher than the local residential retail electricity rates. The median value of solar energy was nearly 17 cents per kilowatt hour across all the studies, according to Environment America. Compared to the average retail electricity rate of about 12 cents, the solar power adds roughly 5 cents of value per kilowatt hour.
“The solar studies reviewed in this report confirm that huge amounts of solar have already been developed without paying the full value that solar brings,” said Karl Rábago, Executive Director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center. “Not only does that mean that solar customers have likely been subsidizing non-solar customers and the utility, but that over the long term, continued development of solar promises downward pressure on electric rates for all.”
The studies found that rooftop solar systems benefitted utilities in a number of ways. Among them, they helped reduce utility capital investment costs, avoided energy costs, and reduced environmental compliance costs. As such, the study contended, the utilities are not paying for the full value of the solar power produced by such systems.
“Until barriers are removed so consumers are allowed to sell their excess power to anyone in a free market setting, net metering is the only alternative,” said Debbie Dooley, founder of Conservatives for Energy Freedom. “Monopolies should pay real fair market value taking into consideration the true value of solar.”
The publishers of the report said they hope that the report will shed new light on the net-metering debate. The report also made recommendations about how to continue to move toward a clean energy future including more distributed solar generation. That included removing arbitrary caps on net metering and fully accounting for the value of net metering and its ancillary benefits.Tweet