Developing 247 GW of local rooftop and community solar and 160 GW of local energy storage is the most cost-effective way for the US to move to a clean energy system by 2050 and save consumers up to $ 473 billion in electricity. This is enough local solar power to power over 25% of all US homes. This is one of the key findings of a new report from Vote Solar, the Coalition for Solar Community Access and Sunrun, entitled “Why Local Solar Power For All Costs Less: A New Roadmap To The Most Affordable Grid”.
With a state-of-the-art network planning tool developed by Vibrant Clean Energy, analysis goes beyond the limits of traditional network planning by leveraging big data and advanced analytics to get a more complete and comprehensive picture of the direct costs and benefits of resources on the Grid.
Dr. Christopher Clack developed the WIS: dom-P tool to analyze trillions of data points, including all potential energy resources and the direct costs and benefits associated with injecting the most cost-effective mix of resources into the power grid. The model was recently updated to take into account and improve the delivery of local solar and storage generation, which is closer to customers on the distribution side of the grid.
“With better models that evaluate resource choices based on their impact on total system cost, we see that scaling local solar and storage systems – along with utility-scale renewables – saves hundreds of billions of dollars and is the most cost-effective route to clean power grid is achieved, “said Jeff Cramer, executive director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access. “Analysis shows that President-elect Biden’s clean energy plan, if properly implemented and guided by the latest grid modeling tools, can save the country hundreds of billions of dollars when it includes scaling local solar and storage facilities. These savings are on top of the massive societal benefits associated with a network that is more local and more distributed. “
The most important findings from the Advanced Modeling Show:
- Providing at least 247 GW of local rooftop and community solar power on the grid would be the most cost-effective way to move to a clean energy system by 2050. It is also the most cost-effective way to achieve a 95% reduction in emissions compared to 1990.
- A clean power grid that uses expanded local solar and storage is $ 88 billion cheaper than a grid that does nothing different than what we do today (no clean power contracts and no use of expanded local solar and storage). This shows that moving to clean electricity targets can save the country money over the status quo.
- Under a national clean power target of 95%, using expanded local solar and storage could save $ 473 billion by 2050 compared to a clean grid that doesn’t expand local solar and storage. By expanding the local solar and storage capacity in the distribution system, the need for power plants that are only operated on peak electricity days is reduced. It also manages and reduces the demand for the distribution system better by providing more local energy products that customers want. This can increase network stability and reduce overall costs in the distribution and transmission network.
- More local solar energy unlocks the potential of solar and wind power systems on a utility scale. The lowest cost grid requires much more utility-scale solar energy. Shutting down fossil fuel power plants, which are rarely operated, and providing more efficient local storage facilities will help integrate 798 GW of utility-scale solar energy and 802 GW of utility-scale wind power by 2050.
- The scaling of local solar and storage systems will result in over 2 million local jobs by 2050. The cost analysis only considered direct costs and benefits, but local solar and storage systems bring additional societal benefits to communities such as jobs, improved economic development, increased resilience and fairer access to the benefits of renewable energy.
“This study shows that the current practice of ignoring (or assuming) distributed resources in utility plans will result in higher costs for customers, higher greenhouse gas emissions and lower job prospects for the industry compared to coordinated planning,” said Dr. Christopher Clack, Founder and CEO of Vibrant Clean Energy. “In addition, the modeling tools required to provide insights for all parties involved should include calculations that resolve the distributional resources to a certain granularity in order to conduct a co-benefit analysis.”
“These efforts are a huge step forward in demonstrating the critical role DERs must play in future system design to provide efficient, effective and reliable solutions to an aging network with changing customer needs, “said Anne Hoskins, former Utilities Commissioner and Chief Policy Officer Officer from Sunrun. “By providing the tools to update outdated measurement data and reflect in our system planning, we are creating a better energy future for everyone.”
“Our outdated, central energy system is disproportionately damaging to families with little wealth and communities for environmental justice. The new, lowest cost grid envisaged in this innovative roadmap shows us how we can reinvent our energy infrastructure by redistributing power to local communities, ”said Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar. “We are now responsible for ensuring that this is done justly, that the previously excluded voices are included and that the investments required for the new power structure benefit those who are most harmed by the old one.”
Local solar and storage systems – part of the group of innovative, affordable technologies sometimes referred to as distributed energy resources (DERs) – are small, distributed systems that produce and store electricity closer to the homes and communities where it is used. The two most common forms of local solar energy are Community Solar and Rooftop Solar, both of which can be combined with battery storage. Community Solar, the fastest growing segment within the solar industry, refers to local solar systems that are shared by multiple subscribers and receive credits on their electricity bills for their share of the electricity generated. With solar on the roof, people can generate their own electricity on their own property and store it in a battery to ensure resilience even in the event of grid failures. Both rooftop and community solar help customers lower their monthly electricity bills.
CCSA, Vote Solar and Sunrun are calling on lawmakers and regulators to ensure that local solar and storage systems are integrated and optimized into government energy planning using advanced modeling tools such as WIS: dom-P, and to establish clear and consistent guidelines and programs for scaling local solar energy and storage now. The technology is here today; Time is of the essence to improve our system planning so that the benefits can be achieved as soon as possible.
More information and access to the full report can be found here.
Message from Vibrant Clean Energy