To hear utility companies tell it, rooftop solar power is an existential threat to baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie. Oh, and one more thing — utility company profits. Wave after wave of reports written by so-called researchers who are paid by the utility industry would have us believe that rooftop solar endangers everyone’s access to electrical power and that people with rooftop systems are placing an unfair burden on those who don’t have solar panels on their roof. A new report from Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center proves that residential solar power benefits the community in ways the utility companies don’t want you to know about.

Entitled Shining Rewards: The Value of Rooftop Solar Power for Consumers and Society (2016 edition), the report was recently made public by Nicole Steele from GRID Alternatives, Jon Rosa from Fuel Fund of Maryland, and Mirrel Simms, a home owner with a rooftop solar system. They were joined by Anna Hofmann of Environment Maryland. “Solar power provides tremendous benefits to Maryland’s environment and all electric customers,” said Hofmann. “We should be encouraging even more solar, in order to reduce pollution and lower energy costs.”

Rooftop solar energy helps communities to avoid greenhouse gas emissions, reduces air pollution harmful to public health, and creates local jobs, the report shows. Its release coincides with efforts to bring solar power to more low income families. “With energy bills on the rise, it’s becoming more and more difficult for many communities to afford the monthly cost of utilities, and no one feels that pressure more than the low income community,” said Jon Rosa, Executive Director, Fuel Fund of Maryland.

“Historically, solar energy has been inaccessible to most low income households, but with new initiatives and partnerships, such as the one showcased today, the cost of accessing solar energy is decreasing, and making it more affordable for everyone.  These solar projects will allow homeowners to reduce their energy burden significantly,” added Rosa.  “Together, we are bringing lasting home energy solutions that offer self-sustainability and dignity to Baltimore City residents.”

“States and localities throughout the nation are pioneering successful low-income solar programs; each addressing local needs and considerations making solar accessible everywhere. Right here in Baltimore, GRID Alternatives continues to collaborate and help implement new models to provide financial relief, jobs, and healthier neighborhoods through the development of solar energy,” said Nicole Steele from GRID Alternatives.

The report looked at 16 studies of rooftop solar and found 12 of them show the value of solar energy was higher than the average local residential retail electricity rate. The median value of solar power across all 16 studies was around 16 cents per unit, compared to the nation’s average retail electricity rate of about 13 cents per unit. “Rooftop solar users are givers, not takers, when it comes to the value they provide to society and the electric system.” said Hofmann. “In many cases it appears that solar programs are a bargain for utilities, not a burden.”

Net metering, an arrangement that pays people with rooftop solar systems for any excess electricity they feed back into the grid, is an important key to the growth of residential solar among low income families. The Maryland Public Service Commission is soliciting input from all stakeholders on how to value costs and benefits of distributed energy resources, including solar and provisions for low income customers.

“There’s so much to gain by going big on solar,” said Hofmann. “Let’s make sure we take full advantage of all the benefits by allowing solar continue to grow here in Baltimore and everywhere in America.”