Fact Checks


  • FACT: Distributed generation – electricity produced and consumed onsite – is growing quickly. In many places, rooftop solar, geothermal and other technologies are providing power to property owners and lowering costs while increasing the resilience of the electric grid.

  • What renewable energy technologies can be distributed? "There are many kinds of distributed energy generation, including solar energy, ground source heat pumps, small wind installations, waste heat to power, etc. However, significant growth in DG over the last decades has come from solar PV, due to its persistent price drop and public support" (Source: Princeton Roundtable, April 2013, http://bit.ly/14oMNDm)

  • From 2013 to 2018, 220 GW of distributed solar PV will be installed worldwide, representing $540.3 billion in revenue, according to research from Navigant. (Source: Navigant Research, 2Q 2013, http://bit.ly/10Xo7y7)

  • The U.S. is on pace to see one new solar installation every 83 seconds by 2016, down from one new installation every 4 minutes currently and one every 80 minutes in 2006. (Source: GreenTechMedia, August 2013, http://bit.ly/17El9BP)

  • Solar is not the only technology being applied at the distributed level. Small wind, biomass, geothermal and digester/landfill gas facilities have also seen success in deployment in California, each with different, important grid benefits. (Source: http://bit.ly/T59k1c)

  •  California is the nation's leading market for distributed generation. On average over the residential markets of the state's three big investor owned utilities, Net Energy Metering (NEM) does not impose costs on non-participating ratepayers, and instead creates a small net benefit. The net costs or benefits of NEM for non-participating ratepayers will amount to just a few cents on the average residential customer's monthly bill (Source: Crossborder Energy, January 2013, http://bit.ly/10zbUmz)

  • California has set a goal of developing 12,000 megawatts of distributed renewable energy by 2020 – equivalent to more than 5 nuclear reactors. (Source: University of California at Berkley School of Law , June 2012, http://bit.ly/1d0iFSV)

  • In the first three months of 2013, close to 3,000 residential solar installations were completed in California with no state incentives. And, through at least 2016, prices will continue to fall and system economics will continue to improve. (Source: GreenTechMedia, June 2013, http://bit.ly/13DokaK)

  • The total capacity of distributed generation installed in New England is likely to triple by 2021, according to Synapse Energy Economics. Synapse estimates the potential for as much as 2,855 MW of installed capacity from new DG resources in New England by 2021. (Source: Forbes, June 2013, http://onforb.es/147WdkH)

  • The Solarize Massachusetts Program produced 965 installed residential solar PV systems, totaling 5.9MW in its first 2 years. Solarize Massachusetts enables communities to negotiate bulk purchasing agreements with installers, which reduces the price of PV systems by as much as 33% without regulations or subsidies. (Source: Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, September 2013, http://bit.ly/w5EyWD)

  • 3MW of residential solar capacity has been installed through the Solarize Connecticut program, which was based on Solarize Massachusetts. Solarize customers can expect to receive between 15% to 20% discounts on the base cost of solar systems through the program. (Source: Solarize Connecticut, September 2013, http://bit.ly/1aSFyZj)

  • Distributed wind currently tops over 800 MW, from more than 69,000 turbines across all 50 states plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That's enough capacity to power more than 120,000 homes. (Source: Department of Energy, August 2013, http://1.usa.gov/1cu6uzZ)

  • There's money to be made in distributed generation. For solar alone, GTM Research estimates that the U.S. residential and commercial solar markets will require roughly $54 billion in project finance between 2013 and 2017. That's a big number for a market valued at $7.3 billion in 2012. (Source: GreenTechMedia, June 2013, http://bit.ly/13DokaK)

  • Financiers are discovering the potential of investing in distributed generation programs. Morgan Stanley and Clean Power Finance, which manages over $500 million in 3rd party solar project financing, backed a $300 million lease program for residential solar PV systems in California and Arizona. (Forbes, May 2012, http://onforb.es/KY23P5)

  • The US residential solar financing market is expected to grow from $1.3 billion in 2012 to $5.7 billion in 2016. Third party financed residential solar PV installations already account for 50% of new residential capacity in California, Arizona, Colorado and Massachusetts, and the model is gaining market share in 9 additional states. (Source: GreenTechMedia, February 2013, http://bit.ly/U63GQ6)

  • A leader in third party financing, SolarCity commands 17% of the residential and 7% of the commercial distributed markets. Totaling over 15,000 customers, 150 MGw installed in 2012 and operations in 14 states, SolarCity has also attracted significant attention from the private sector, including a $280 million investment from Google, a $60 million partnership with Honda to finance projects for Honda and Acura owners, and partnerships with the Home Depot and Credit Suisse. (Source: GreenTechMedia, March 2013, http://bit.ly/Z9L5it)

  • Incentive programs have had difficulty keeping up with market demand and changes in the cost of solar. Solar installed costs have declined from $7/watt in the first quarter of 2010 to less than $6/watt in the first quarter of 2012 for residential systems nationally, while nationally nonresidential systems have dropped from just under $6.50/watt to nearly $4.50/watt over the same period (Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, December 2012, http://1.usa.gov/17Jdeln)

  • Power purchase agreements (PPA) - similar to a lease in that the actual panels are owned by a 3rd party – are powering up the city of Pendleton, Oregon. Using a (PPA) to finance a solar PV installation on a water treatment facility, the city pays per 4.68 cents/kWh (less than the local utility charges) and the PPA allows them to avoid the high upfront cost of buying and installing solar panels. (Source: Environmental Protection Agency, September 2013, http://1.usa.gov/1amv0lQ)

  • Washington State's RPS allows for creative DG solutions in Seattle. Nucor Steel and Seattle City Light have entered into an agreement whereby Nucor will convert waste heat from their steel recycling operations to produce electricity for Seattle City Light. The key terms of the agreement include the purchasing of energy savings and the environmental attributes for the project and a 2 cents per kilowatt-hour incentive based on the power produced by the project over the 12-year term of the contract. (Source: West Seattle Herald, February 2013, http://bit.ly/11S5riI)

  • Utilities are increasingly committing to distributed generation. In July, 2013 utilities in Georgia, New York, and Colorado announced plans to bring a total of 840 megawatts (MW) of solar energy online by 2016. In a similar move, California-based Edison International actually acquired a solar developer – SoCore Energy – to expand the utility company's ability to install and operate rooftop solar installations for commercial and industry customers. (Source: Clean Coalition, July 2013, http://bit.ly/15NehS6 & Los Angeles Times, August 2013, http://lat.ms/15Igr6J)

  • One benefit of Distributed Generation (DG) is its ability to avoid line losses. Line losses – power lost over long transmission lines – typically range from 5% to 11%, with the upper end of this range reached during times of peak usage. Because DG is located on the site of "load" or very close to the power consumer, line losses can be virtually nonexistent to minimal.  (Source: Interstate Renewable Energy Council, July 2012, http://bit.ly/T59k1c)

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