The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Rooftop Solar Provides Net Benefits to All Nevadans
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and SolarCity have published a new analysis on costs and benefits of rooftop solar energy in Nevada that shows it’s benefitting all utility customers in the state and benefits could significantly increase under good solar policies.
The results of the paper, coauthored by NRDC's Dylan Sullivan, show that Nevada customers are already receiving $7 million - $14 million in net benefits per year from rooftop solar generation across the state—which amounts to 1.6 cents to 3.4 cents in benefits from every net-metered kilowatt-hour—whether they have solar photovoltaic panels on their roofs or not.
The “solar wars” in Nevada have been heated and as in many heated debates, reason is often the first victim. Advertisements on both sides have attempted to demonize the other: "Big Rooftop Solar" (a bit of a contradictory mouthful) vs. the "Big Utility" (apologies if neither of these epithets sound all that scary). Unfortunately, the interests of customers can get lost in this sort of atmosphere. This paper, Distributed Energy Resources in Nevada, is intended to calm the debate and add a measure of reason.
This report shows that a policy that fairly compensates consumers for their production of clean distributed (onsite) energy and the excess they return to the grid serving all NV Energy customers has big benefits for all Nevadans. The full value of those benefits ought to be part of the discussion when it comes to setting utility rates for NV Energy customers. That’s why this study includes a range of benefits not previously considered by the Public Utility Commission of Nevada, including: Cutting the amount of energy the electric utility needs to purchase and the number of new power lines that need to be built; and reducing fossil fuel power plant emissions and their health impacts.
The new analysis from NRDC and SolarCity builds off the methodology and values from the previously commissioned E3 study, with the most recent and complete information available. The Brookings Institute also released a paper this week summarizing the findings of studies on the benefits of rooftop solar conducted across the country, concluding that “substantial evidence that net metering is more often than not a net benefit to the grid.”
Why This Paper?
When SolarCity approached us about authoring a joint paper on the costs and benefits of distributed renewable energy in Nevada, we were a bit apprehensive about entering the fray. We have supported moves by Nevada’s principle utility, NV Energy, to clean up its system: closing one coal plant and divesting from another, proposing to end all coal use within the decade and proposing significant new solar projects even through Nevada’s broken renewable standard doesn’t require it.
We also support customer investments in clean energy and utility rate designs—such as net metering—that compensate customers fairly. When a customer invests in rooftop solar, smart home energy management or energy efficiency, those decisions do more than lower the customer’s electricity bills. They also are tangible steps towards cleaning up the grid and addressing climate change fueled by emissions from fossil resources like coal and natural gas. If we are going to tackle the urgent threat of massive climate disruption, we need to unlock as many avenues to clean energy as possible- and people need to be able to partner with their energy provider to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency.
In the end, NRDC decided to co-author this paper because we saw a need for a thorough analysis of the costs and benefits of rooftop solar generation in Nevada that could improve a contentious debate.
NRDC views net metering as an effective, workable compromise to roughly compensate customers for their investments in clean energy. The exact costs and benefits vary by jurisdiction and rate structure, but overall it has worked remarkably well in Nevada and elsewhere.
We don’t view net metering—or any rate structure—as sacred. It is the fundamental job of utility commissions to develop fair rates that ensure utility grid investments can be adequately recovered. These investments are required to ensure reliability for all customers and should be made in the context of the urgent need to cut pollution and protect the stability of our planet’s climate.
This same rationale applies to consumer investments: As consumers choose to make cost-effective investments in helping to clean up the Nevada’s electricity grid through rooftop solar, energy efficiency or other clean energy investments, utility commissions should be considering how to adequately and fairly compensate them. As these thoughtful discussions take place, it is essential to look at the costs and benefits of rooftop solar in a measured way. The PUCN decision ending net metering in Nevada only considered a fraction of the benefits that rooftop solar provides—and this paper provides a more comprehensive look.
The Public Utilities Commission indicated that they needed more information about the costs and benefits of rooftop solar in order to make a decision about what rate structure should be in place to compensate consumers. Although their decision to move forward with dramatically reducing net metering rates without all the required information had negative consequences by disrupting the previously thriving solar industry, the commissioners stated they would consider the full scope of benefits in upcoming rate cases—and we hope that providing a rigorous and comprehensive cost/benefit analysis will provide an opportunity for Nevada regulators and policy makers to make a fresh start on rooftop solar policy.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Mancini
On Aug. 18, Iceland held a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change. The deceased party was Okjökull, a historic body of ice that covered 14.6 square miles (38 square kilometers) in the Icelandic Highlands at the turn of the 20th century. But its glory days are long gone. In 2014, having dwindled to less than 1/15 its former size, Okjökull lost its status as an official glacier.
By Alex Schwartz
Among the many vendors at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18 sat three young people peddling neither organic vegetables, gourmet cheese nor handmade crafts. Instead, they offered liberation from capitalism.
I’m a Psychotherapist – Here’s What I’ve Learned From Listening to Children Talk About Climate Change
By Caroline Hickman
Eco-anxiety is likely to affect more and more people as the climate destabilizes. Already, studies have found that 45 percent of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. Some of that emotional turmoil must stem from confusion — why aren't adults doing more to stop climate change?
For the past seven years, the Anishinaabe people have been facing the largest tar sands pipeline project in North America. We still are. In these dying moments of the fossil fuel industry, Water Protectors stand, prepared for yet another battle for the water, wild rice and future of all. We face Enbridge, the largest pipeline company in North America, and the third largest corporation in Canada. We face it unafraid and eyes wide open, for indeed we see the future.
By Mara Dolan
We see the effects of the climate crisis all around us in hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and rising sea levels, but our proximity to these things, and how deeply our lives are changed by them, are not the same for everyone. Frontline groups have been leading the fight for environmental and climate justice for centuries and understand the critical connections between the climate crisis and racial justice, economic justice, migrant justice, and gender justice. Our personal experiences with climate change are shaped by our experiences with race, gender, and class, as the climate crisis often intensifies these systems of oppression.