New Report: California Ratepayers Can Save $120B with Sustained Local Solar and Storage Growth
San Francisco, CA – A report released today reveals that enabling the continued growth of distributed energy resources (DERs), like rooftop and community solar and battery storage, would save California ratepayers $120 billion over the next 30 years. According to the new analysis by national grid modeling experts Vibrant Clean Energy, commissioned by Local Solar for All, building an electricity system that combines and efficiently leverages more local solar and batteries with utility-scale renewables saves the grid the equivalent of $295 per year for the average California ratepayer.
Using a state-of-the art grid planning tool, the analysis goes beyond the limitations of traditional electricity system planning by leveraging big data and advanced analytics to produce a more complete and inclusive picture of the direct costs and benefits of all resources on the grid.
“What our model finds is that when you account for the costs associated with distribution grid infrastructure, distributed energy resources can produce a pathway that is lower cost for all ratepayers and emits fewer greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr. Christopher Clack, founder and CEO of Vibrant Clean Energy. “Our study shows this is true even as California looks to electrify other energy sectors like transportation.”
The main takeaways from the analysis include:
California stands to save over $120 billion by 2050 if the state continues to build DERs – rooftop and community solar and batteries – as a way to meet its ambitious clean energy and climate change goals. This is the equivalent of $4 billion in annual savings, or an estimated $295 per year for the average California ratepayer.
A future that prioritizes the sustained growth of DERs also leads to greater reductions in greenhouse gases than a future that relies entirely on utility-scale generation. California stands to reduce emissions by 4.1 million metric tons more by continuing to prioritize local solar and storage.
These savings are the result of generating electricity closer to where it is used, reducing the need for expensive transmission and distribution infrastructure like poles, wires, and substations, as well as reducing how much bulk-scale power is needed to serve the state’s grid.
Sustained local solar and storage growth in California will create more than 100,000 more jobs by 2030 and 374,000 more jobs by 2050. Local solar and energy storage technologies are inherently more job-intensive than utility-scale power, creating more jobs in local communities.
The tool used for this analysis, WIS:dom®-P, analyzes trillions of data points including every potential energy resource and the direct costs and benefits associated with bringing the most cost effective resource mix to the electric grid. The model takes into account and enhances the delivery of local solar and storage generation located closer to customers on the distribution side of the grid.
Specifically, this analysis sought to uncover how the continued steady growth of local solar and storage would impact California’s electric grid as the state works to meet its clean energy and emission targets and transition to an electrified, carbon-free economy. The analysis compared a future with no additional buildout of local solar and storage against a future that assumed the California distributed rooftop solar market continued to grow at more than one gigawatt (GW) per year (as modeled by the California Energy Commission in order to meet the state’s climate goals), coupled with a ramp up to one GW per year of community solar by 2030 and an equally ambitious growth of local battery storage.
“Prioritizing local solar and batteries will help California meet its clean energy targets with less air pollution and carbon emissions, more customer savings, and more job creation,” said Rob Sargent, Campaign Director for Local Solar for All. “We encourage the California Public Utilities Commission to require utilities to upgrade their planning models to those that take advantage of more and better data and accurately value local solar and storage.”
In addition to the money that local solar and batteries save the grid, DERs provide tremendous societal benefits, including: increased energy equity; greater individual and community resilience during blackouts and extreme weather; reduced wildfire threat; fewer land use and wildlife impacts; local job creation and economic activity; greater reductions in air pollution; the ability to achieve clean energy goals on a faster timeline; and the opportunity to provide consumers with a tangible and meaningful mechanism for reducing climate change that furthers public support of other climate solutions.
“Fully embracing distributed energy is a no-brainer for consumers,” said Jenn Engstrom, State Director of CALPIRG. “Local solar and energy storage benefit all consumers by reducing our overall need for grid investments today, while helping build the clean and resilient grid of the future.”
“These results reconfirm the outsize value that local solar and storage provide to all Californians, ” said Susannah Churchill, Senior Regional Director, West for Vote Solar. “In planning for a clean, equitable and resilient future, the California Public Utilities Commission should take note of these findings and ensure that local clean energy can continue to grow.”
“More advanced models prove that local solar and storage bring significant cost benefits to the grid and that if California builds out large amounts of local solar and storage with utility-scale renewables it can stand to save over a hundred billion dollars by 2050,” said Jeff Cramer, executive director of Coalition for Community Solar Access. “In order to realize these savings, we urge the Commission to adopt better models, continue to grow behind-the-meter solar and storage markets, and finally establish a competitive community solar program so all Californians can access local, low-cost solar.”