SAN ANTONIO–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 Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “If anything, utilities should be paying people who go solar more, not less.”
The Environment Texas Research & Policy Center report, Shining Rewards: The Value of Rooftop Solar Power for Consumers and Society, comes as “solar is growing in Texas with utilities like Georgetown, Austin Energy, Denton, and CPS Energy valuing both utility scale and onsite solar,” noted Cyrus Reed, conservation director of the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club.
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.”
According to David Power, Deputy Director of the Public Citizen Texas, “Fair and equitable net metering policies should be the right of everyone that chooses to make this investment and change in their lifestyles.” He says, “utilities should adopt a new business model to insure that all the benefits of clean, local generation are justly compensated for."
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. 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.
“Producing local clean electricity where it is consumed reduces energy losses and reduces strain on the electric grid.The times when we produce the local clean electricity is the time when the sun is shining, which is when we are consuming the most electricity in Texas,” says Richard Howe, co-founder of Plano Solar Advocates.
“Solar customers aren’t only creating value for themselves; they are also providing value to the utility and other non-solar customers. It is essential that utilities compensate solar customers for that value, either with net metering or a fairly calculated value of solar rate,” says Kaiba White of Public Citizen.
David Dixon on Native Inc. believes that, “it is great to see confirmation of what we have known for a long time: that rooftop solar offers a range of tangible, financial benefits to the utility, community, and society that in most cases justify net metering policies.”
“Solar power’s rewards are far greater than its costs,” said Metzger. “We should be encouraging even more solar, not penalizing it.”
Environment Texas Research & Policy Center is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. www.EnvironmentTexas.org