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Study: Solar power delivers more than clean energy to Arizona

Report shines a light on undervalued benefits as Arizona Corporation Commission considers changes to energy rules
For Immediate Release.

Phoenix -- Arizonans benefit from solar panels in important ways that are often overlooked by policymakers, according to The True Value of Solar: Measuring The Benefits of Rooftop Solar Power, a study released today by Environment Arizona Research and Policy Center and Frontier Group. As the Arizona Corporation Commission considers increasing the amount of renewable energy powering the state and expanding rooftop solar, commissioners should weigh the full value that solar energy delivers. 

“Power from the sun is a boon to the environment, protects our health from dirtier power options and gives us a shot at leaving our kids a better world,” Emma Searson, Go Solar Campaign Director at Environment Arizona Research and Policy Center, said. “We need to appreciate what solar energy is really worth and base our public policies on it. Setting more ambitious goals for distributed solar and other renewable sources would be a great first step in recognizing that value.”

Valuing solar energy accurately is an important step in the creation of effective policies that support rooftop solar installations. For example, net metering policies pay solar panel owners back when they provide excess power to the grid. More than two million solar panel installations are now in use nationwide and net metering has played a significant role in that growth. Ambitious standards that require utilities to meet a certain percentage of electricity demand with renewable energy resources like solar also serve to recognize the benefits of those resources and support adoption.

“As Arizonans continue to invest in solar energy on their homes and businesses, commissioners should recognize the many tangible benefits derived from producing clean energy locally,” said Bret Fanshaw, Arizona Program Director with Solar United Neighbors. “Whether in a rate case or in changes to the renewable energy rules, we should be making it easier, not harder, for people to put solar panels on their roof.”

The report argues that energy policies should account for the full suite of benefits associated with solar energy. Solar adds value to the grid by limiting the need to generate power at fossil fuel plants, and to make costly investments in new power capacity, distribution and transmission. Solar energy can make prices more stable, improve reliability and reduce environmental compliance costs, the study highlights.

Rooftop solar also delivers valuable environmental and societal benefits. When more clean, renewable energy is added to the grid, global warming emissions, along with pollution that threatens public health or contributes to soot and smog, are reduced. Solar energy also reduces the need for coal extraction and other parts of the fossil fuel life cycle and creates local economic benefits.  

Studies that inform state solar energy policies often neglect those sweeping benefits. When solar energy is valued accurately, policies that support rooftop solar development are typically shown to provide a net benefit to all electric customers.

“Given the climate crisis we are facing, a clear-eyed and honest assessment of the actual value of solar power is essential,” said Searson. “And, that true value must be reflected in our actions. We need to do everything in our power to encourage more Arizonans and more Americans to go solar because it benefits everyone.”

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Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization. We are dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.