Including all the benefits in cost-benefit analyses of solar - 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? Continue reading

Net Metering: A Net Positive - There’s been a lot of talk lately about net metering. What’s so special about net metering, and why all the fuss? Net metering is a simple concept that’s policy in 43 states. It’s like rollover minutes on a cell phone bill -- it lets utility customers who install solar systems feed energy they generate into the grid if they don’t need it at the time they’re generating it. They get the fun of watching their meter run backwards, and they get a credit on their power bill for that excess energy, which they can use when the sun goes down. The question, though, is what constitutes fair credit, and whether net metering customers are passing on to other customers an unfair burden of transmission and distribution charges. Continue reading