Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Can US Solar Energy Survive without Incentives?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Can US Solar Energy Survive without Incentives?

Article excerpt

Solar power, which has been enjoying rapid growth in the United States in recent years, could face a cloudy future, as more states reconsider incentives deemed essential to the industry's growth.

The incentive in question is net metering - a policy that enables consumers who install solar systems on their rooftops properties to receive full retail credit for the surplus energy they provide to the electric grid.

Net metering once enjoyed widespread support, but it now faces threats, with 25 of the 40 US states, including Maine and New Hampshire, as well as traditionally solar-friendly markets such as Massachusetts and New York, considering rolling back on net metering policies.

Nevada and Arizona have scrapped the policy altogether, while Mississippi has shifted toward less generous net metering policies. The state approved a plan last year that pays solar users below retail rates for the excess power that they supply to the grid.

While the incentive is safe in California, the state's regulators in January increased fees on solar users.

Citing the falling prices that have reached 40 percent in five years, opponents argue that the industry can survive without generous incentives.

Some analyst agree that the industry may be able to survive without cash incentives, but it won't survive without net metering. Solar power without net metering makes less sense, Brian Lips an Energy Policy Project Coordinator at the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center tells The Christian Science Monitor.

Rooftop solar power lowers the amount of power needed from centralized power plants, meaning that "upgrades to the grid such as new power plants or bigger power lines and substations can be delayed or even canceled altogether," writes Seth Blumsack, an Associate Professor at Pennsylvania State University, in The Conversation.

"A study performed in January by Crossborder Energy found that net metering delivers more than $92 million in annual benefits to non-solar customers in California since it allows utilities to avoid costs from generating and delivering energy. …

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