Adding solar capacity to the Texas electricity grid would result in lower wholesale electricity prices for Texas customers, according to a new report authored by The Brattle Group and funded by the Energy Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
Analysts at The Brattle Group's energy consultancy reviewed Texas electricity market data from summer 2011 and analyzed how prices would have been affected if solar photovoltaic systems had been added to the generation mix.
The report concludes that adding solar PV to the Texas electricity grid during that period could have saved customers an average of $155 to $281/MWh and that avoiding fuel, operations and maintenance costs associated with fossil-fuel plants could have saved customers an additional $52/MWh.
Taken together, the total customer benefits of adding solar PV to the Texas grid was valued at more than $520 million.
During last year's unseasonably hot summer, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the Texas electricity grid, was forced to issue six conservation alerts because of record electricity usage in the state, resulting in electricity shutoffs for customers who volunteered for cutbacks during emergency conditions, the report adds.
Similar capacity issues could occur this summer. According to an analysis released May 30 by the North American Electric Reliability Corp., Texas electricity reserves ‘will challenge operations this summer’ because ‘resource adequacy levels have fallen below targets.’ The analysis also stated that if Texas experiences extreme and prolonged high temperatures, rotating outages are possible this summer.
‘This study shows that not only can solar energy help lower costs for Texans, but that adding solar capacity helps address the state's more urgent crisis of potential rolling blackouts during the hot summer months,’ says Carrie Cullen Hitt, vice president of state affairs for SEIA. ‘The state's electricity grid was pushed to the brink of failure last summer. As Texas leaders address ways to mitigate this risk and the state's energy future, solar should be an important part of their plans.’
‘The declining cost of solar increasingly makes it a more viable option in Texas, where there is plenty of sun, electricity demand and a looming water shortage,’ adds Ben Paulos, renewable power program director of the Energy Foundation. ‘However, to accelerate deployment, solar needs to be compensated for the value it delivers, through fair market rules.’