Value-of-solar studies inconsistently account for solar energy’s benefits, especially beyond the electric grid, resulting in dramatically different conclusions.
Studies that include the benefits of solar energy beyond the grid generally find that its value exceeds the retail rate of electricity. Recent studies from states including Maine, Pennsylvania and Arkansas have found that solar energy brings substantial environmental benefits, and that rooftop solar owners would provide a net benefit to society even with net metering compensation.
Studies commissioned by electric utilities generally fail to account for benefits beyond the grid, resulting in far lower values of solar. A 2016 report published by Environment America Research and Policy Center and Frontier Group reviewed value-of-solar studies and found that, of 16 studies reviewed, only eight accounted for avoided greenhouse gas emissions, and no studies commissioned by utilities accounted for the value of solar energy beyond the grid. The studies that left out societal benefits valued solar, on average, at 14.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to 22.9 cents for those studies that at least accounted for greenhouse gas emissions.