The most quoted statistic in the solar industry is that the revolutionary electricity source is supported by 90% of the U.S. population (although it does a lousy job of turning these people out in times of crisis). Well, the University of Michigan has provided a new one that should immediately follow any invocation of the “90% support” statistic.
75% of Americans support net metering, the regulatory framework that has been instrumental in the proliferation of the solar industry to the point where it now:
- employs more than 260,000 people;
- produces $155 billion (yep, with a “b”) of combined economic impact; and
- produced one out of every 50 new jobs in the U.S. economy in 2016.
In other news, water is still wet, and the Pope is, at least nominally, still Catholic.
The support for net metering flies in the face of utilities’ efforts to tamp down or eliminate the practice in states across the country, but if the numbers in this study are borne out, the anti-net metering stance could eventually backfire.
The study posits that net metering has gained in popularity nationally because more people are producing their own power and are exporting excess electricity to the grid. Instead of destabilizing the grid, as many utilities claim it does, the electricity can reduce grid strain during times of peak production. And with battery technology rapidly becoming paired with more solar projects, utilities should expect even more people and businesses to flock toward producing their own power.
Relationships between state-level solar industries and utilities are often contentious, in part because the proliferation of solar energy threatens utilities’ traditional business models. Utilities also claim solar ratepayers don’t adequately pay for grid upkeep when they produce their own power thanks to net metering, allegedly shifting those costs to non-solar producers.
Do we have to say it again? There is little to no scientific basis for such a claim, at least when solar-electricity penetration in a market is less than 8%. Even at those levels, currently reached by a number of states you wouldn’t even need a second hand to count, the impact on non-solar ratepayer bills of net metering is negligible.
The University of Michigan study also revealed:
- 76% of self-identified moderates and 62% of self-identified conservatives support net energy metering.
- 72% of Americans age 50-64 and 66% of those 65 and older support net energy metering.
- 64% of respondents who said they don’t think there is solid evidence of climate change support net energy metering. And 74%of these same individuals support increasing the use of solar in their state.