Study: Rooftop Solar Benefits All Nevada Utility Customers

As the debate over net energy metering (NEM) and solar continues in Nevada, a new report released by SolarCity and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says rooftop solar provides a net benefit to all Nevada utility customers.

According to the report, rooftop solar generation in Nevada provides 1.6 cents of benefit per kilowatt-hour of energy generated, producing $7 million in benefits annually for all utility customers in the state. If environmental and health externalities are included, the benefits of rooftop solar increase to 3.4 cents/kWh and $14 million annually.

SolarCity and the NRDC say the peer-reviewed paper, “Distributed Energy Resources in Nevada,” is the first to quantify all the rooftop solar cost and benefit variables identified by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN).

The paper recommends policymakers and regulators develop advanced grid planning procedures that incorporate these benefits into the utility ratemaking process.

“This study confirms what Nevadans already intuitively know: The thousands of rooftop solar systems across the state benefit all Nevadans, and the state should have policies which encourage the deployment of more distributed energy,” says Jon Wellinghoff, chief policy officer of SolarCity. The solar installer was one of several that ceased or slowed operations in Nevada earlier this year following the PUCN’s NEM rate change.

“A close examination of the costs and benefits of rooftop solar generation in Nevada confirms that a continued partnership between customers and their utility to promote investment in clean energy benefits everyone,” adds Noah Long, director of the Western Energy Project at the NRDC. “It will help avoid building unnecessary utility infrastructure that can increase all customers’ bills and helps cut the carbon pollution that harms our health and fuels dangerous climate change.”

According to SolarCity and the NRDC, the PUCN last year identified 11 variables that must be quantified to determine the costs and benefits of rooftop solar in Nevada. This analysis is vital to set sound energy policies, such as how photovoltaic solar system owners are compensated for sending excess solar energy to the transmission grid through NEM. However, the commission determined it had “insufficient time or data” to quantify nine of the variables. SolarCity and the NRDC say their paper examines the benefit variables left unassessed in the commission’s 2015 analysis.

These variables include rooftop solar’s potential to reduce the amount of energy the electric utility needs to purchase; the number of new power lines that need to be built; fossil fuel power plant emissions and their health impacts; and regulatory costs, such as meeting Nevada’s pollution-reduction targets under the federal Clean Power Plan.

The full white paper can be found here. Expert reviewers of the paper include academics from Stanford University, the Rocky Mountain Institute, Energy Innovation and NextGen Climate America Inc.


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