Compensation for solar power not enough, nonprofit report finds

Utility customers around the country who rely on individual solar power generation could be under-compensated by their local utility companies, according to research compiled by Environment Texas and released this week.

Forty-one states in the U.S. offer solar energy users net metering, which repays those users at retail prices for the extra energy they offer the grid, according to the report. Those repayments are not equal to the value of the power generated, the Environment Texas report claims.

The advocacy non-profit examined 16 studies of solar power grids around the country–including two in San Antonio and Austin–and found that in most cases solar users are being underpaid in exchange for the energy they produce. The individual studies were published between 2012 and 2016 by mostly solar energy and environmental research groups, although some were done by local public utility companies.

Among the 16 analyses studied, the average value of rooftop solar power was 16.35 cents per kilowatt hour, while the average residential retail electricity rate was around 13 cents per kilowatt hour.

Environment Texas’ report, “Shining Rewards: The value of rooftop solar power for consumers and society,” urged utilities to adopt a more equitable net metering system to encourage more solar power use.

In a state with 300 days of sunshine plenty of open spaces, Texas has long been heralded as place for high solar potential, but solar power has yet to takeoff here. At least five major solar projects in the state have been delayed or cancelled as of July.

Lincoln Clean Energy made the latest attempt, a $320 million solar farm capable of powering 40,000 homes near Amarillo, but construction has been stalled because no one wants to buy the electricity, the company said.

The roughly 300 megawatts of grid-scale solar power in Texas accounts for less than 1 percent of the state’s electricity generation, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees about 90 percent of the power grid.