Although the financial and environmental advantages of solar energy are clear, this technology still only provides less than one percent of the total electrical generation in the entire country. As such, it is important for the solar community and public officials to continue communicating to residents everywhere how they can benefit from having solar panels installed on more rooftops and vacant land.*
It’s clear that this encouragement won’t come from utilities, who are concerned that if more people switch to solar power, it will cut into their profits.
A recent New York Times piece discusses this issue and how electrical companies are trying to slow the growth of solar energy, despite the fact that there is so much to be gained for ratepayers.
The main claim being made by utilities is that Net Energy Metering (NEM) policies, which allow payers to sell solar-generated electricity back to the grid and lower their electricity bills, will cause charges for other customers to rise as more homes switch to solar power. As a result, they’ve been campaigning for public officials to eliminate Net Metered systems so that fewer residents can enjoy the advantages of solar energy.
There are many reasons that Net Metering benefits all utility customers as a whole. It is recognized in a general sense that less electricity produced by fossil fuels will improve the health of anybody who breathes air. However, the reason that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) instituted the NEM class for solar owners in the first place was to create distributed energy throughout the grid. They believe that solar panels help generate electricity during the hottest days of the year, when marginal or ‘peaker’ power plants fueled by conventional means are ramped up to meet higher than normal demand. This not only stabilizes power production when it is most likely to fail, but lowers the cost of building infrastructure and new power plants because the owners of the distributed solar power plants assumed the burden of building the generator, not the state or the ratepayers.
In fact, it has been estimated that the costs of NEM solar has been exceeded by its benefits to the tune of $92.2 million a year in California alone (Crossborder Energy Study, January 2013). This study proves that all ratepayers benefit from solar and that it does not adversely affect non-solar owners.
*AMECO Solar is doing our part to spread the “solar gospel” to Los Angeles residents and officials by working with Environment California, a state-based nonprofit, on their “Go Solar California” campaign. By highlighting the stories of solar system owners in the area, the report will continue to build support for the goal of 20% rooftop solar power by 2020 in the county. Our hope is that by proving how beneficial solar is for all residents, we can bring more clean energy to Los Angeles.