New Solar Study in Nevada Sings Same Old I-Done-it-Wrong Song

Let's address something head on. Solar energy provides a benefit to all consumers, even those who don't have solar panels. Study after study in states from Maine to Arizona, and by groups such as the The Brookings Institution and the Natural Resources Defense Council prove this point. Solar is transforming America's energy use.

Nationally, rooftop solar is growing faster than ever. We reached one million installations nationwide earlier this year, and we're on pace to clear two million in just two more years. That number is expected to hit 4.5 million in the end of 2021, and that's not counting the number of community and utility scale solar projects.

It's not a matter of if solar energy becomes a fixture of every community's electricity generation, it's a matter of when. And the utilities and regulators who fail to recognize this growth, and find ways to give their customers what they want, will be left behind.

In Nevada, however, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) heeded too many false cries about cost shifts and made changes to the rate design structure that effectively brought the state's rooftop solar industry to a screeching halt. In the five months leading up to the PUC's decision, 4,447 applications were filed for residential solar systems. In the five months after, there were just 84.

It doesn't have to be this way. Recent progress in states like New York, Tennessee and Colorado point to a future where solar and utilities find common ground and develop a rate design structure that benefits both of them, in addition to all customers.

Last week, Energy & Environment Economics (E3) put together a draft study claiming that distributed solar generation in Nevada is imposing a $36 million cost on ratepayers. The study comes two years after the same company reached the opposite conclusion, finding that rooftop solar systems create savings for customers. While E3's first study was consistent with other studies in showing solar's value to the community, the latest version insults the intelligence of Nevadan readers.

Good rate design can empower customers to control their energy costs through conservation and adoption of emerging technologies, while sending price signals that allocate capital investment more efficiently, lowering costs for all ratepayers. It's clear when you do the math: the benefits distributed solar generation provide to all far outweigh any costs.

The latest scuffle in Nevada isn't the first time we've seen entrenched interests work to prevent the booming solar industry from thriving in a particular state and giving consumers a choice when it comes to their electric bills, and it won't be the last. So the next time you hear someone claim that rooftop solar puts a burden on everyone else, remember: their numbers just don't add up.