Critical Need Exists to Rapidly Increase Distributed Solar and Storage, Report Finds


The U.S. must deploy a minimum of 103 GW of distributed, local solar power and 137 GW of distributed energy storage by 2030 to achieve President Biden’s climate and equity goals at the lowest cost,. This is one of the core findings of a new report issued today by Local Solar for All, a broad coalition of local solar advocates, based on analysis from electric grid modeling experts Vibrant Clean Energy.

The report is part of a growing body of research that calls out the financial and societal benefits of significantly growing the amount of local, distributed solar and storage deployed on the U.S. electric grid. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Futures Study released earlier this month and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s recent 30×30 analysis each come to similar conclusions as this modeling: over the next 10 years, distributed generation (community and rooftop solar) must grow between two to four times faster than in the previous decade (2010 to 2020) in order to reach the nation’s climate and energy goals at the lowest cost.

“This modeling aligns with other research and represents a floor for how much distributed rooftop and community solar and storage will be needed to meet President Biden’s clean energy, climate and equity goals at the lowest cost,” says Jeff Cramer, executive director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access. “We have always known that customers want distributed solar and storage and that they bring significant societal benefits, but we now know that at-scale, these assets also save the grid and all ratepayers money. Congress and state policymakers should double down on the programs and policies that will accelerate the growth of community and rooftop solar and storage so we can build a clean, low-cost electric grid that works for all Americans.”

Using conservative cost and technology assumptions, the report examined how to build the lowest cost grid using President Biden’s climate goals as key constraints: 80% clean electricity by 2030, 50% economy-wide carbon reductions by 2030, 95% economy-wide carbon reductions by 2050 and 100% electrification of the economy by 2050.

The key findings include scaling up distributed solar and storage reduces stress on utility-scale resources and enables access to 579 GW of utility-scale solar and 442 GW of wind. Scaling up distributed solar and storage saves all ratepayers over $109 billion by 2030 compared to deploying utility-scale renewables only. Increasing local solar and storage would lead to the creation of more than 1.2 million new American jobs by 2030.

Not included in the report, but key to achieving President Biden’s Justice40 goals, is the ability for 50% of local rooftop and community solar capacity to be directed to low- to moderate-income (LMI) households, which could lower the energy burden for between 8-15 million LMI households.

“This study backs up the findings of other recent studies – that emphasizing local solar and battery storage, in partnership with large-scale renewables, leads to more societal benefits and lower costs,” states Rob Sargent, campaign director for Local Solar for All. “By making rooftop and community solar a priority in President Biden’s plan for 80 percent clean energy by 2030, we can save money and create more jobs, while building the foundation for a more equitable, consumer-focused energy system powered entirely by clean electricity.”

“The best way to implement President Biden’s goal of producing 45 percent of the nation’s electricity from solar by 2050 and enact the Justice40 Initiative is with rapid acceleration of distributed solar and battery storage,” comments Suzanne Leta, head of policy and strategy for SunPower. “American families deserve quick and decisive action from Congress to make the investments required to achieve these objectives.”

“These results show home solar and batteries play a vital and necessary role in President Biden’s ambitious clean energy and infrastructure goals,” adds Anne Hoskins, chief policy officer for Sunrun. “As we’ve seen in previous models, investing in DERs reduces costs for everyone – and creates a clean, resilient, and equitable energy system.”

The report leverages a state-of-the-art grid planning model developed by Vibrant Clean Energy called WIS:dom-P. The model analyzes trillions of data points including every potential energy resource and the direct costs and benefits associated with bringing the most cost-effective resource mix to the electric grid. Importantly, unlike most traditional models, the model takes into account, and enhances the delivery of, local solar and storage generation located closer to customers on the distribution side of the grid.

The authors of this report, along with a broad coalition of advocates representing civil rights, indigenous, environment, equity, rural and business organizations, have been calling on Congress to prioritize the equitable and just deployment of renewable energy through policies that support expanding local rooftop and community solar power for all. Advocates released a policy roadmap which, among other things, advocates for Congress to extend and expand the solar investment tax credit (ITC), create $10 billion in grant funding opportunities for rooftop and community solar, and support distributed energy resources in the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP).

Find a summary of the report here.

Image: Photo by MICHAEL WILSON on Unsplash

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