SolarCity: Rooftop solar generates net benefit for all Nevada utility customers


SolarCity and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are making the case for rooftop solar in the U.S. state of Nevada, saying it provides wide-ranging benefits to all residents.

According to a new study by SolarCity and the NRDC, rooftop solar generation provides 1.6 cents of benefit per kilowatt-hour of energy generated, producing $7 million in benefits annually for all Nevada utility customers.

If environmental and health externalities are included, the benefits of rooftop solar increase to 3.4 cents per kilowatt-hour, and $14 million annually.

The paper — Distributed Energy Resources in Nevada — recommends policymakers and regulators develop advanced grid planning procedures that incorporate these benefits into the utility ratemaking process, which would enable Nevadans to see the benefits on their electricity bills and ensure that the state transitions to a cleaner, more affordable, and resilient grid.

SolarCity says the peer-reviewed paper is the first such work to quantify all the rooftop solar cost and benefit variables identified by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada.

"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," said Jon Wellinghoff, SolarCity’s chief policy officer.

Wellinghoff, the former chairman of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), encouraged Nevada policymakers “to consider the potential of distributed energy resources to build a smarter, more resilient grid to power our economy with affordable clean energy."

Noah Long, director of the NRDC’s Western Energy Project, said that a close examination of the costs and benefits of rooftop solar generation in Nevada confirmed that “a continued partnership between customers and their utility to promote investment in clean energy benefits everyone.”

"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," Long added.

SolarCity notes that the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada last year identified 11 variables that must be quantified to determine the costs and benefits of rooftop solar in Nevada.

The company points out that while the analysis is vital in setting sound energy policies, such as how PV system owners are compensated for their excess solar energy through net metering, the Commission determined it had "insufficient time or data" to quantify nine of the variables.

The SolarCity/NRDC paper examines the benefit variables left unassessed in the Commission's 2015 analysis with the aim of providing useful input into future Nevada policy discussions on the benefits of distributed solar generation.

Variables include rooftop solar's potential to reduce:

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  • 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
  • Regulatory costs, such as meeting Nevada's pollution reduction targets under the federal Clean Power Plan.

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