Hey fossil-fuel industry, where’s your proof?

Net metering creates more tangible benefits than costs, and those benefits accrue to everyone

The June 18 opinion piece by William O’Brien and Greg Moore “Hey solar industry, why the subsidy?”is long on bombastic rhetoric and short on facts.

It is not Franklin Mayor Tony Giunta and net metering supporters who do “disservice” to the debate. That job falls to the fossil-fuel industry and utilities disguised as non-profit organizations making claims without substantiating them.

As opinions carry more weight when backed up by data from reputable sources, allow me to substantiate the solar advocates’ claims questioned by O’Brien and Moore.

They ask why solar advocates insist net metering is not a subsidy. A subsidy is the granting of government money to assist an industry by enabling lower prices. Net metering pays homeowners for solar electricity they put into the grid for the utility to sell. I’m not denying net metering makes solar more economical. It does. But it is not a gift. It is payment for product delivered.

(Those who insist on calling net metering a subsidy must also acknowledge the billions in subsidies given to the oil and gas industries over the years, which include parking aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and which dwarf renewable energy subsidies.)

Net metering creates more tangible benefits than costs, and those benefits accrue to everyone, not just solar owners. Net metering does not shift costs from one group of ratepayers to another. These conclusions have been reported in at least nine studies conducted by nonprofits or government regulatory commissions in states including Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Texas and Missouri.

Another unsubstantiated claim says net metering lets solar owners avoid paying their fair share of utility costs. When people switch to LED bulbs they are not blamed for shirking their fiscal duty toward the utility, because their lower usage does not create an additional expense for the utility. The same is true for people who make their own solar.

Part of the value solar creates for all ratepayers is lower utility costs through a reduction in both peak demand and the need for expensive new infrastructure. This is not theory. Proof has already emerged.

Peak demand – when the most electricity is being used – is hot summer afternoons in New Hampshire. The electricity the utilities buy on your behalf is most expensive during peak demand time. Conveniently, this is also when a lot of solar energy is produced.

ISO New England, the regional grid operator, has forecast that summer peak demand would rise at a compounded annual growth rate of 0.8 percent over the next 10 years unless you factor in energy efficiency and solar, in which case peak demand decreases by 0.4 percent.

In California, the country’s most mature solar market, solar has reduced peak demand by 6 percent and helped shift the daily peak from around 5:30 p.m. to almost 9 p.m., according to the California ISO’s 2017-2018 Transmission Plan as reported in PV Magazine.

The same ISO plan called for the cancellation of 20 transmission projects, which were no longer needed due to energy efficiency and residential solar reducing load forecasts. Avoiding that new construction equates to savings of about $2.6 billion.

The only thing stopping New Hampshire from realizing utility savings like these is the willingness of some to ignore the facts and instead hide behind unsubstantiated claims.

Mark Durrenberger is president and founder of New England Clean Energy, a solar company that operates in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Categories: Opinion