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Luke Metzger,
Environment Texas

Counter to utility claims, solar users provide net benefits

For Immediate Release:

AUSTIN – Solar panels provide pollution free energy that delivers far reaching benefits to the environment and the electric grid, said a new report released today by Environment Texas Research & Policy Center. The report outlines how solar panels on homes, schools and businesses often provide more benefits than they receive through programs like net metering, counter to utility claims that solar owners don’t pay their fair share.

“Solar power’s rewards are far greater than its costs,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “We should be encouraging even more solar, not penalizing it.”

The Environment Texas Research & Policy Center report, Shining Rewards: The Value of Rooftop Solar Power for Consumers and Society (2016 edition), comes as policymakers around the country consider proposals from utilities to undermine successful solar energy programs, including net metering.

Cyrus Reed of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club said many of the leading retail electric providers in the state of Texas are now offering good payments for excess solar generation on residential properties, while others -- like Austin Energy -- have been paying a positive Value of Solar rate for many years, which includes providing a credit on electric bills for the “environmental” benefit of solar power.

“Distributed solar power means we can have cleaner air and water, we don’t have to build expensive new power plants and it means electricity gets delivered more easily and efficiently,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “With all that we gain from solar, we should continue to encourage its growth through paying fair market value for its energy, providing support for financing programs like PACE and changing the rules in our energy-only market so distributed solar can directly bid into that market.”

Solar energy on rooftops can help communities to avoid greenhouse gas emissions, reduce air pollution harmful to public health and create local jobs, the report shows. Net metering programs credit solar panel owners when they generate more power than they use, providing electricity for other customers. Utilities then credit solar panel owners 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, but in recent years utilities have increasingly attacked them as unjustified “subsidies”.

Today’s report tells a different story. An examination of studies from around the country shows that the dollar and cents value of solar is often higher than the credit utilities provide to customers.

Of the 16 studies reviewed, 12 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 16 studies was around 16 cents per kWh, compared to the nation’s average retail electricity rate of about 13 cents per kWh.

In other words: utilities were likely underpaying solar panel owners, not subsidizing them.

“Rooftop solar users are givers, not takers, when it comes to the value they provide to society and the electric system,” said Metzger. “In many cases it appears that solar programs are a bargain for utilities, not a burden.”

All 16 studies found that solar panel users offered the electric system net benefits.

“There’s so much to gain by going big on solar,” said Metzger. “Let’s make sure we take full advantage of all the benefits by allowing solar continue to grow here in Texas and all across the country.”

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Environment Texas Research & Policy Center is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. www.EnvironmentTexasCenter.org