A report conducted by Synapse Energy Economics on the economic, environmental, and societal impacts of small-scale solar in New England joins a wide body of evidence demonstrating that solar has tangible benefits for all electricity ratepayers, and not just those who use solar power.
Looking at 2014 – 2019 data released by the grid operator ISO New England, this report calculates the region’s total wholesale energy savings due to local solar to be over $1.1 billion. It also shows the monetary value of additional widespread benefits, such as the reduction of carbon emissions, avoided pollution and health costs, and job creation.
In short, solar is a win for the earth, for our communities, and for anyone who receives an electric bill.
How does solar save everyone money?
With grid tied solar, everyone pays less for electricity because it reduces the amount and the cost of electricity purchased by utility companies:
- During the hours of peak grid usage, solar lowers the demand for additional electricity
- This in turn reduces the need for utility companies to buy expensive energy from highly polluting standby power plants
- With lower demand for this costly energy, the wholesale price of electricity decreases
Let’s dive in. For utility companies, the most expensive time to operate the grid is during the middle of the day, when demand for electricity is at its highest. During the height of summer, when the endless running of air conditioners causes the grid to hit “peak-load,” utility companies are forced to tap into their backup systems, which tend to be less-efficient, more expensive oil burning power plants.
Solar panels generate power during these sunny, peak-demand times, which reduces the need for utilities to turn to back up power plants. These “peaker” plants require copious amounts of money to stay operational, despite only being utilized a couple days a year. Reducing the need for them keeps the price of wholesale energy from skyrocketing during peak demand days, and eliminates the burning of an enormous amount of oil.
Additionally, most small-scale solar is generated locally and used close to the source, which lowers the need for expensive lines, poles, and the maintenance of the grid’s general wear and tear. The more solar power there is in the grid, the more utility companies save, and those savings are passed on to all customers, solar and non-solar alike.
Solar lowers electricity prices, carbon emissions, and associated health risks
Synapse reports that between 2014 and 2019, the total 8,600 gigawatt-hours of solar electricity generated in New England reduced wholesale energy market costs by a whopping $1.1 billion. The total energy savings in Maine alone were $68 million, and the benefits of these savings were felt by all residents who rely on the utility grid for energy, solar users, and non-solar users alike.
In addition to the economic impacts, the report highlights the environmental and societal benefits of small-scale solar. From 2014 – 2019, New England solar alone prevented “4.6 million metric tons of climate-damaging carbon dioxide emissions” and the release of hundreds of thousands of pounds of pollutants, which contributed to “$87 million in public health benefits.”
The report also details additional societal benefits of solar, such as the creation of jobs and the boosting of local economies, thanks to the local energy savings felt by individuals and states that can be reinvested into their local economies.
Fight for solar if it benefits you (spoiler, it does!)
Synapse’s findings affirm the value of solar previously found in other independent reports, and puts new, staggering numbers to what we at ReVision have championed for decades: the more solar power we build in our communities, the greater the benefits for all (including the utility companies who fight solar!).
With the cost of solar continuing to decrease, and the economic and societal benefits far surpassing those of fossil fuels, we look forward to the day when all New England residents, solar and non-solar users alike, become champions of solar.
If you’re looking for more details on how solar saves everyone money, we encourage you to download and explore the full Synapse Report!
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