A study released today by the Vote Solar Initiative finds that net-metered rooftop solar will provide more than $92 million in annual benefits to ratepayers of California's three investor-owned utilities.
Net metering is a program that provides rooftop solar customers with utility bill credits for the surplus clean energy that their solar systems feed onto the electric grid. Net metering has been a key driver of the rapid expansion of solar across California's rooftops, with two-thirds of home solar installations now occurring in low and median income neighborhoods, according to a July 2012 California Solar Initiative report.
The study comes as the state's investor-owned utilities-- Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric-- increasingly criticize net metering, which reduces their ability to justify the capital investment infrastructure projects that earn them a guaranteed profit.
A link to the full Crossborder Energy study and a Vote Solar summary fact sheet with infographics is available here.
The study was commissioned by the Vote Solar Initiative and was authored by consultant and former California Public Utilities Commission advisor Tom Beach of Crossborder Energy. Using a CPUC-approved economic model and data from solar customers, the study assesses the overall impacts of net metering to ratepayers in territories covered by Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric.
It finds that the financial benefits of net metered power outweigh the costs, with a total net benefit value of more than $92 million annually by the time the state's net metering program is fully subscribed. Benefits include: savings on expensive and polluting conventional power; reduced investments in transmission and distribution infrastructure; reduced electricity lost during transportation over power lines, as net metered solar's surplus energy is sent to the grid locally; and savings on the cost of meeting carbon reduction and renewable energy requirements.
"When someone decides to put solar panels on their roof, they not only generate clean power, but also reduce strain on the electric grid while offering financial benefits to all ratepayers," said Adam Browning, Executive Director of The Vote Solar Initiative. "We've got a long way to go in revamping an antiquated energy grid and growing California's clean economy, and net metering is critical to those efforts."
In addition to the bill-saving ratepayer benefits outlined in the study, solar provides environmental, public health and economic benefits. Thanks to policies like net metering, California is home to a fast-maturing solar industry, which now employs over 43,000 Californians and has attracted over $10 billion in private investment.
"It's crystal clear that the way we produce and consume electricity needs to evolve," said Daniel Kammen, University of California Berkeley Distinguished Professor in the Energy and Resources Group (ERG), and Professor of Public Policy in the Goldman School of Public Policy. "The good news is that net metering is doing what it was designed to do—accelerating solar adoption while reducing our dependence on dangerous fossil fuels and kick-starting one of the most promising job-creating industries of the 21st Century. Solar produces energy at the times of highest cost to the utilities, so with the right market incentives, it is a simple 'win-win-win' for ratepayers, utilities, and the environment."
Solar adoption has helped school districts and other public agencies survive steep budget cuts, with savings from solar installations freeing up funds to retain teachers, educational programs, and important government services. Over the next 30 years, schools and public agencies will save more than $2.5 billion on energy bills via net-metered solar systems.
"Bill savings from solar projects coupled with efficiency are important at a time when schools have been forced to cut budgets and grow classroom sizes. Net metering helps taxpayer-funded institutions operate more efficiently by allowing schools to use these utility savings for other purposes such as books, supplies and teachers," said Anna Ferrera, Executive Director of the School Energy Coalition. "Not to mention the added benefit of having our students witness the clean and natural resources that can power their classrooms and computers."
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