New TVA analysis takes first step toward recognizing the value of solar

TVA is in the early stages of evaluating how customer-generated solar power will be incorporated into the utility’s plans. (© iStock)

Today the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) released its “Distributed Generation- Integrated Value” report, intended to calculate the economic value that solar power provides to the TVA grid. The report confirms that, by encouraging distributed solar, TVA avoids a range of costs associated with burning coal or natural gas for electricity. SELC participated in the yearlong stakeholder process to develop the report and advocated for inclusion of the full range of benefits that solar energy provides to the grid and to the environment.

“The good news is TVA is starting to regard solar power like the valuable resource it is,” said attorney Amanda Garcia, who is a member of the stakeholder group. “But the report only looks at what TVA saves, not the value of solar to the Tennessee Valley as a whole. As a public power company, TVA should dig deeper and craft policies that do not shortchange customers who make the investment to put panels on their roofs.”

TVA embarked on this process as utilities around the country have attempted to define the “value of solar,” a formula that captures just how much customer-generated solar power is worth to the utility, other customers, and to the environment and community at large. Unlike other utilities, however, TVA chose not to consider the full range of benefits and savings when solar is used in place of fossil fuel sources, such as the impacts on pollution, carbon, and water use.

The report will inform how TVA compensates solar customers for the power they provide back to the grid. TVA acknowledges the draft report is a starting point and many other values beyond the utility’s avoided costs will be considered as the stakeholder process continues, including solar’s environmental impacts and benefits to local power companies.

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