Residential solar panels may not be as cost effective as promised

A new report shows that the cost of residential solar panels may not save people money on electricity.

AUSTIN, Texas – Beware before you buy solar panels: Rooftop solar sales pitches can be misleading.

In Texas, the electric grid is regulated by the Public Utilities Commission. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the grid for 90% of the state, with El Paso, parts of the Texas Panhandle, and areas of East Texas being the only areas of the state connected to other U.S. power grids.

Unless connected to the whole house’s battery, rooftop solar panels send electricity to the distribution grid using photovoltaics. Homes draw power from the grid.

The government and consumer watchdog group Public Citizen released a report looking at 141 non-competitive Texas utilities like Austin Energy.

Released data shows that it could take decades to break even in the cost of purchasing and installing rooftop solar. Financing these panels may not be cost effective at all.

Kamil Kok, a participant in the Public Citizens Climate and Clean Energy Program, said utility companies need better compensation rates.

“This can be the difference between saving $40,000 in 25 years or staying in the hole, $6,000, for example,” Cook said.

The report shows that at least 35 non-competitive utilities in Texas charge additional monthly fees to customers who use solar panels. This fee averages an additional $15.55 per month.

“There is a critical need for a statewide policy that sets a fair rate of compensation for customer sited solar,” the report shows.

“We don’t think that’s fair at all to consumers. For a lot of taxpayers/consumers, it discourages them from investing in a solar system that would help with grid reliability, that would help them save money, that could help them, you know , in improving our climate goals for the city and state,” Cook said.

The report ranked Austin Energy among the best for customers looking to purchase solar panels for their homes.

“One utility, Austin Energy, uses a Value of Solar (VOS) rate, which gives customers all on-site solar production at a set rate, regardless of whether the energy is used on-site or exported to the grid. This rate is based on each of avoided utility costs and environmental benefits from solar at the customer site Austin Energy also uses tiered energy consumption rates for customer site solar at 100% of the consumption rate for customers using 1,000 kWh per month,” the report shows.

“Solar Rate Value aims to provide fair value to solar and non-solar customers, encourage solar adoption, and meet progressive environmental goals set by the Austin City Council. Austin Energy’s Customer Renewable Energy Solutions team is proud to serve Austin,” an Austin Energy spokesperson said. Residents and businesses by providing incentives, education and communication.”

The Google Sunroof Project is a tool that shows people how long it will take on average for a person to reach solar panel costs.

The website uses Google Maps to show which areas of your roof get the most sunlight. People can use their average bill to find out how many panels are needed, the estimated average cost to purchase, the cost of leasing, and the cost of the loan.

It does not include tax incentives or local rebates.

Cook says the PUC and ERCOT need to launch a comprehensive study.

“This assessment can take into account a variety of factors, many of which are described in detail in the National Standard Practices Guide for Benefit-Cost Analysis of Distributed Energy Resources,” the report shows.

“Facility and network values ​​that should be evaluated include:

“Generation Benefits: Avoid power generation costs, capacity, environmental compliance, ancillary services, and lower market prices.” “Transmission Benefits: Maintain transmission capacity and avoid transmission system losses.” “Distribution System Benefits: Maintain distribution system capacity, avoid distribution system losses, and reduce system operations.” Distribution and maintenance costs, and maintaining distribution system effort “other benefits, including improved reliability and flexibility, reduced risk, and reduced bad debt and disconnections.”

“The values ​​that should be valued for society include:

“Reduced greenhouse gas emissions.” “Reduced air, water, and land pollution and associated public health benefits.” “Local and statewide economic benefits, including job creation.” “Improving community resiliency.”

“We would like to see a study that makes every utility have the same framework through which they can understand how customers who have solar in their area contribute to the grid and contribute to the utility,” Cook said.

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