The Hidden Costs of Solar Power

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1 The Hidden Costs of Solar Power Brian H. Potts Foley & Lardner, LLP The Economics of Rooftop and Utility-Scale Solar Cashing in on Federal/State/Local Solar Subsidies The Fixed v. Variable Fee Debate Current Nationwide Regulatory Trends The Future of Solar 2 1

2 Solar Is A Touchy Subject Everyone seems to have a strong opinion. My thoughts: The Hole In The Rooftop Solar Panel Craze, Wall Street Journal (5/17/15) Might As Well Go Green Yourself, The Weekly Standard (4/16/15) But Many Disagree: The Hole In Brian Potts WSJ Critique of the Solar Panel Craze, Huffington Post (5/27/15) We Need To Support All Types Of Solar: Utility- Scale, Rooftop, Community and More, EDF/Forbes (5/20/15) 3 The Economics of Rooftop and Utility-Scale Solar 4 2

3 Questions If you live in Indianapolis, will installing solar panels on your house save you money? Have we finally reached the point where solar power costs less than power from conventional fossil-fuels? How many of you think solar power will eventually be the primary source of power in this country? 5 You Might As Well Go Green DOE Backed Study In 46 out of 50 of the largest cities leasing a residential solar power system is a better investment than the stock market. For 21 million homeowners (or 93% of single-family homes) fully financed solar costs less than their current electric rates 6 3

4 Nationwide Solar Rankings 7 Is Rooftop Solar Economic Here? DOE-Backed Study: $55/month savings in first year w/5 kw system But paying cash up-front makes it not a better investment than the stock market Fully-financed performs better than the stock market Why? 8 4

5 Solar Prices Are Dropping, But Have We Reached The Tipping Point? Solar and Wind Start to Win on Price v. Conventional Fossil Fuels, New York Times (11/23/14) U.S. Solar and Wind Start to Outshine Gas, Financial Times (9/17/15) 5 Reasons Solar Is Already Beating Fossil Fuels, Huffington Post (11/5/13) 9 UTILITY- SCALE SOLAR LCOE - $.05/.06 kwh in some areas (nationwide average $.13/kWh) ROOFTOP SOLAR Overall LCOE can be 2 to 3.5 times higher But fully financed systems in many large cities range from $.03/kWh to $.14/kWh FOSSIL FUELS Natural gas/coal LCOE approx. $.05.08/kWh 10 5

6 Brattle Group Study (2015) Utility-scale solar PV generation costs are approximately half the costs of residential-scale PV Study considered transmission/distribution costs and related externalities Utility solar PV avoids approximately 50% more carbon emissions than an equivalent amount of residential-scale PV solar 11 Why is Utility-Scale Solar Cheaper? Economies of scale Better locations A higher capacity factor (which translates into lower CO2 emissions) Less operational/safety issues 12 6

7 Brattle Group Levelized Cost of Solar Six Scenarios 13 Cashing in on Federal/State/Local Solar Subsidies 14 7

8 Five Hidden Solar Subsidies Federal Tax Credits State and Local Tax Incentives Net Metering Renewable Mandates Climate Regulation 15 Federal & State Incentives Federal Investment Tax Credit 30% credit Expires 2016 GHG Regulation State/Local Tax Programs 23 States Additional % discount Renewable Portfolio Standards Net Metering, etc. 16 8

9 Residential Solar Tax Savings - An Example A typical residential solar system costs about $20,000 Federal tax credit - $6,000 State/local tax incentives (in LA, for example, the city sends the homeowner a check for about $2,000) Buyback rate incentives in some states Low-cost financing

10 19 Electric Rate Design: The Fixed v. Variable Fee Debate 20 10

11 What are Examples of Fixed and Variable Costs? Variable Costs: Fuel O&M Fixed Cost: Infrastructure/long-term capital investments Usage-based variable charges ($/kwh) on electricity bills reflect all variable costs and a portion of fixed costs

12 The Utility Argument In Five Lines 1. Utilities make long-term capital investments 2. The fixed costs are passed on to ratepayers primarily through a variable-use charge 3. These charges vary based on usage 4. Ratepayers going off the grid or purchasing less electricity as a result of rooftop solar avoid paying variable charges but they still use the grid 5. Cost burden shifts to other ratepayers 23 Net Metering History Why was this policy originally adopted? Why haven't utilities historically recouped all of their fixed costs through fixed rates? 24 12

13 Net Metering Cost Estimates APS asking to increase fixed charge to $21/month for solar APS says its solar customers are avoiding $67/month Without change APS estimates $800 million cost to nonsolar over the next 20 years (based on systems installed through mid-2017 alone) CPUC estimate $1.1 billion by Solar Industry Arguments Solar subsidies < fossil-fuel subsidies Peak shaving Climate costs Savings in transmission/distribution costs Utilities fear customers going "off grid" 26 13

14 Current Nationwide Regulatory Trends

15 Recent State Policy Changes 29 Shifting Regulatory Landscape State tax/rps/climate regulation Net metering Expiring federal tax credit Clean Power Plan 30 15

16 Future of Solar 31 Energy Bills on the Rise EIA forecasts 33%-83% increase in utility rates over next 25-years Source: North Carolina Univ. & DOE 32 16

17 Key Factors Expiration of federal and state tax incentives Carbon tax/ghg regulation Net-metering and other rate policies Advances in solar and storage technologies 33 17

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