A principle of being a consumer in the US is getting the full value of what you pay for. A new report by Environment New York Shining Rewards: The Value of Rooftop Solar Power for Consumers and Society found that residential and commercial customers with solar arrays aren’t getting that value. It found they provide more benefits to the power grid, society and the environment than utilities reimburse them through net-metering programs.
Power utilities often argue that solar customers cost companies more than conventional consumers. They argue that they must subsidize the additional costs of fluctuating energy rates and infrastructure maintenance and establish additional service charges. In states like Nevada and Illinois utilities have attempted to reduce reimbursement rates for net-metering programs or eliminate them altogether.
However, a growing body of evidence, including the recent Environment New York report counters this thinking. The report evaluated 16 studies and the overwhelming majority, 12, found that the value of solar power exceeds the average residential electricity rate offered by net metering programs. The reports unanimously concluded that the average value of electricity produced by residential solar is around 16 cents per kilowatt hours while the average national electricity rate is about 13 cents per kilowatt hour. In other words: the utilities are underpaying solar customers for the value of the electricity they contribute back to the grid through net-metering programs.
Net-metering programs have helped the rooftop solar industry quickly expand and thrive throughout the US in recent years. It enables customers to get a quicker return on their investment in solar by receiving credit for the excess power their rooftop solar arrays produce. A growing number of states, like Nevada, Vermont and Maine, have benefited from net-metering and it hasn’t cost utilities and other customers without solar more, according to a Brookings Institute report.
The Environment New York report contended that solar power production benefits society in a number of ways. It provides clean energy, reduces greenhouse emissions and invigorates local economies by creating job growth. It also showed that residential and commercial solar installations increase grid resiliency and stabilize market electricity prices.
"When value exceeds costs, everyone benefits through lower rates," said Karl R. Rábago, Pace Energy and Climate Center executive director and national expert in value of solar studies. "Utilities should start working with customers and regulators to make more solar and more savings happen."Tweet