We’ve all heard that phrase: “Studies have shown …” Haven’t you ever thought some of those studies seemed, well — just obvious?
You can even get a good laugh out of some of the more obvious studies out there.
Why do we need solar studies?
Solar studies aren’t quite so funny. Maybe the benefits of solar power aren’t as obvious as the fact that travelers prefer flying when they don’t have to go through long security lines, or that exercise is good for you.
Sure, installing solar panels saves homeowners money and increases their home’s value. Solar even comes with some other pretty sweet perks — like giving people more control over their power, and the satisfaction of knowing they’re using clean energy.
But what about people who don’t go solar? Are solar customers helping them?
We think so. But some folks aren’t convinced. And by “folks,” I mean utilities and dirty fossil-fuel interests.
The American people know better — studies have shown they love solar.
In fact, Americans love solar so much that for years now, the utilities have been worried that their business model is at risk.
What’s being studied?
But change is hard. So, some utilities and fossil-fuel interests have been claiming that solar customers cost everyone else money.
They’re blaming net metering —an important policy that’s made solar strong in over 40 states. Net metering ensures that solar customers get paid for the power they generate but don’t use, so they can in effect use the grid as their battery storage.
But according to the utilities, paying solar customers their fair share for the power they generate is costing non-solar utility customers.
On first glance, that may seem to make sense. But when you really study the matter, a different picture emerges.
Why so many studies?
And studied it has been. In fact, there may be such a thing as over-studying — especially when the studies keep finding the same thing.
Here are just a few of the studies that have been done so far:
- Way back in 2005, the Vote Solar Initiative did a study on the benefits of solar in California.
- Vote Solar commissioned another California solar study in 2013, from independent consulting firm Crossborder Energy.
- In fact, 2013 was a big year for rooftop solar studies — in Arizona, California, Colorado, New York, North Carolina, and Texas, and Vermont, among others.
- In 2014, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted a study on net metering.
- Nevada commissioned not a study on net metering in 2014, and has commissioned two others since then. Are they hoping to somehow get a different result?
To see more on the many studies done so far, check out this longer list from SEIA — which doesn’t even include every study.
Studies have shown …
So what do all these studies find? Are solar customers saddling their non-solar neighbors with extra costs?
In a word: No.
It turns out that the economic benefits of net metering outweigh the costs. What’s more, there’s not even any significant cost increase for non-solar customers.
What’s the cost of net metering? Well, the utility gets less money from solar customers to cover things like utility infrastructure costs.
What are the economic benefits? A big one is savings on infrastructure (notice a connection to the cost I just mentioned?). When more people put solar their roofs, we don’t need as many transmission lines or other expensive utility infrastructure.
Another cost benefit is savings for utilities on meeting state renewables requirements. When they get solar from people’s roofs, the utilities don’t need to buy clean energy somewhere else.
The many benefits of solar
But the benefits of solar don’t end there. We think the benefits to everyone are clear:
- An improved environment. An average-sized solar array prevents about 5,760 pounds of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere each year. That’s like planting over two acres of trees.
- Better public health — and savings. People around the world are getting sick from fossil fuel emissions. A recent study showed that with just the solar installed in the U.S. by the end of 2014, we’d already prevented thousands of illnesses and deaths — and saved $890 million.
- Jobs. Solar jobs are growing about 12 times faster than the overall economy. Just last year, over 35,000 solar jobs were created, bringing the total number to 208,859.
- Water savings. Solar panels don’t use water to generate energy — unlike dirty fossil fuels. That’s a big deal in drought-prone areas.
- National security and energy independence. It’s no accident that the Department of Defense has been a solar leader for years. Generating our own power right here in America reduces our dependence on foreign energy sources. Plus, solar power on rooftops can help protect our power grid against attacks .
Stop these endless studies!
It’s time to see that the benefits of solar — for everyone — are obvious. It’s time to stop wasting time and money on study after study that shows the same thing, over and over.
Instead, let’s focus on getting solar onto more roofs. That will benefit all of us.