Including All the Benefits in Cost-Benefit Analyses of Solar

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When it comes to evaluating our energy options, policymakers typically perform cost-benefit analyses. That seems pretty uncontroversial, right? Where it gets squirrelly is in the selection of ingredients. What costs to include? Short term costs, or long-term? Include externalities? If a particular technology emits pollutants that threaten life on earth as we know it, how much should that matter? That kind of thing.

Same thing on the benefits side. Do you value the resource as a short term or long term generator? Should you account for time of generation, given that electricity costs more during times of high demand? Do you include other grid benefits, such as the potential to avoid other capital outlays, such as investments in transmission and distribution systems?

How about benefits that go beyond the grid? Should societal benefits such as the value of cleaner air and reduced morbidity be factored into cost-benefit evaluations? How about climate change impacts? Employment and other economic impacts? Impacts on water consumption?

We think so. To this end, we’ve joined a coalition of groups (AmericanLung Association in California, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Brightline Defense Project, California Center for Sustainable Energy, California Environmental Justice Alliance, California Solar Energy Industries Association, Coalition for Clean Air, Distributed Energy Consumer Advocates, Environment California Research & Policy Center, Environmental Defense Fund, Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc., Local Energy Aggregation Network, Dr. Luis Pacheco, Presente.org, Sierra Club, Solar Energy Industries Association) to request that the California Energy Commission undertake a study of the societal costs and benefits of California’s net energy metering program.

The petition can be found here (pdf).

If you think this is a good idea, the CEC is requesting public comment. Instructions for adding your voice, here (pdf).

All public comment on the matter here.

Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream.

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About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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