If you listen to many utility executives, distributed solar energy has the potential to destabilize electrical grids and result in huge cost shifts for many American consumers. Well, as the old Irish saying goes: blarney!
A new independent study prepared for the Nevada Public Utilities Commission estimates that the grid benefits of rooftop solar systems installed in the state through 2016 will outweigh costs by more than $36 million, confirming that solar energy can provide real savings for both solar and non-solar customers alike.
According to San Francisco-based Energy + Environmental Economics (E3), the state’s net energy metering (NEM) program – which gives Nevada residents full credit on their energy bills for the clean electricity they deliver to the utility grid – has “no substantial cost shift to nonparticipants…given the current and proposed reforms to the program.” What’s more, accounting for the cost savings of avoided distribution upgrades, E3 estimates a net benefit of $166 million over the lifetime of solar systems installed through 2016.
These findings are critically important because the Nevada PUC is reviewing whether solar customers should be in a separate class for future rate-making decisions.
This new reports confirms what we have been saying all along: utilizing solar energy benefits Nevada families, schools and businesses. And net metering is one of the most important state programs for empowering Nevadans to embrace solar. This, in turn, creates new jobs, pumps tens of millions of dollars into the state and local economies, and helps to protect the environment, too. That’s a win all the way around.
The 476 megawatts of solar generating capacity currently installed in Nevada ranks the state 5th in the nation in installed solar capacity. In addition, average installed residential and commercial photovoltaic (PV) system prices in Nevada dropped by 25 percent last year.
As one of the sunniest states in the nation, expanding the use of solar energy in Nevada is a no-brainer. But we’re not just talking about saving money. The typical solar household in Nevada also saves 55,000 gallons of water per year. That’s a huge, huge benefit – especially when you consider the severe drought now plaguing the southwest. Today, Las Vegas is almost completely dependent on the vast Lake Mead reservoir, has reached its lowest levels since the Hoover Dam was completed back in 1936.
All things considered, this report clearly demonstrates that any fixed charges or arbitrary fees on solar customers in Nevada would be unfair, unwarranted and unnecessary.
Rhone Resch is the President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade organization for America’s solar energy industry.