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.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.