Solar has seen a 70% compound annual growth since 2010, with over 4GW installed in 2013. Indeed, preliminary numbers indicate that approximately 28% of all new US generation capacity installed in 2013 was from solar. Despite this growth, solar generation is still a small part of the overall generation mix. This holds true even for the states with the highest solar penetration.
Distributed solar provides benefits to all ratepayers
In addition to the basic energy value, distributed solar provides many benefits to the grid and by extension to all ratepayers. The chart to the right shows avoided cost categories along with example values from a hypothetical situation. The specifics of each situation will vary, and balanced studies that evaluate both benefits and costs and use transparent and open methodologies and assumptions are critical to setting fair policies. See ‘A Regulator’s Guidebook: Calculating the Benefits and Costs of Distributed Solar Generation’ from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. See also ‘A Review of Solar PV Benefit & Cost Studies’ from the Rocky Mountain Institute.
Net Energy Metering (NEM) is a critical policy for enabling distributed solar
Net Energy Metering (NEM) credits solar customers for electricity that their system puts on the electrical grid.
43 states and Washington DC have adopted net metering policies and they are a proven and reliable method
to advance the development of solar energy and enable customer choice. Increased penetration of distributed
generation, although still significantly less than 1% of retail sales in all but the highest penetration markets, has
drawn significant attention from utilities around the country.
Low and middle income households are increasingly installing distributed solar
As with almost any new technology, solar installations in the residential market have consistently started with the wealthier residents as the early adopters. As the markets mature, costs decline, and businesses innovate financing models, middle and low income customers are increasingly part of the ‘early majority’ of distributed solar customers. Data from the three leading solar markets (California, Arizona, and New Jersey) shows that distributed solar is predominately and increasingly being deployed in middle income in neighborhoods. Additionally, in part because of recent cost declines of solar PV, policies and business models are beginning to target low-income consumers.
Employment in the US solar industry grew by 20% in the last year
The U.S. solar industry continues to remain a bright spot on the nation’s employment landscape, providing opportunities for more than 142,000 workers at 18,000 locations in all 50 states and creating jobs at a rate ten times higher than employment growth in the overall economy. Seventy-seven percent of the nearly 24,000 additional solar workers are in newly-created positions, rather than existing jobs that have added solar responsibilities.