Solar energy adoption is on the rise, and public policy has been a key factor in spurring growth in the solar energy sector. In order to keep developing smart public policy, many “value-of-solar” studies have been conducted in an attempt to quantify the monetary value of the benefits (and costs) derived from adding solar to the electric grid. Many studies are sponsored by utilities to support changes in rate structure and often do not account for societal benefits. Consequently, “the narrow scope of those studies leads to undervaluing solar energy and, in turn, justifies policies and electricity rate structures that make it harder to embrace this renewable resource” (Searson, 2019). In fact, the full range of benefits from solar go far beyond the electric grid, and it is crucial that these types of studies account for the full value of solar energy, including societal benefits to the environment and public health, to best serve the public interest (Environment America).
Impact on the Grid
- Solar energy reduces dependency on fossil fuels, by reducing the need to generate from central power plants as well as diverting investments from fossil fuel energy to clean energy
- Reduced need and avoided costs of power distribution and transmission, especially during the summer, when electricity demand spikes - and when solar panels are most productive.
- By diversifying our power supply, solar panel installation will result in increased price stability and grid reliability
- Improved grid resilience, which is particularly important in the case of natural disasters
- Reduced environmental compliance costs
Ripple Effect - Impact on Society
- Avoided CO2 emissions from using a clean energy source represent an environmental, societal and economic benefit. The economic benefit is in terms of reduced societal and economic damages each year. The societal benefit is in terms of public health and the environmental benefit is in terms of reduced impact on climate change.
- Reduced emissions of dangerous air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, mercury and particulate matter from fossil fuels
- Reduced need for fracking, coal extraction and other parts of the fossil-fuel life cycle that have adverse consequences and costs borne by everyone
- Economic benefits from new local jobs and businesses related to solar