In recent years, heightened awareness about climate change has made countries shift from conventional, non-renewable sources of energy to non-conventional, renewable energy sources. In this scenario, solar energy is fast emerging as an alternative, particularly in equatorial and tropical Third World countries. Solar energy is a green and affordable alternative, and its use is central to the goal of achieving sustainable growth and development.
In this article, we will focus on the main economic benefits of solar energy. We will also touch on some of the environmental benefits as well, because sustainable development entails that environmental benefits outrule economic benefits in the long run.
Economic Benefits of Solar Energy
1. Lower energy bills
Traditional ways of saving on energy bills, such as switching to LED lighting, using natural ventilation instead of using an air conditioner, etc. can help bring down energy bills, but only up to a certain extent. At the end of the day, you will have to be completely dependent on your energy provider, and pay whatever the monthly charges are in accordance with your energy consumption. This is not the case with solar energy. Solar energy helps the consumer attain self sufficiency in meeting energy requirements, and drastically reduces one’s dependency on the discoms. If you install high capacity solar panels on your rooftop, you can power a large number of electrical appliances in your home or office. Although the initial investment on solar panels is high, in the long run, there is a high return on investment, as these panels can last for more than 25 years without requiring much maintenance.
2. Net metering
Net metering is one of the most unique economic benefits that come with a solar PV system installed at your home or office. Net metering allows you to send the extra energy produced by the solar PV system back to the grid, and earn credits for it. During certain months in a year, when sunlight reception is maximum, the solar PV system might produce more energy than is required. If you have opted for net metering, you can send this extra energy back to the local grid of your area. The credits thus earned can be used to avail electricity during the other months, when demand for energy is higher than the supply by the solar PV system. Solar net metering also allows developers to set up rooftop solar plants at various locations and earn money out of it. However, you need to ensure that your state has a net metering policy for you to avail net metering.
3. Get rid of Time-of-Use (TOU) rates
Time of use (TOU) rates can result in an increase in energy bills, as electricity consumed in peak hours, i.e. those times of the day when the demand for electricity is the highest, is charged more than the electricity consumed in normal hours. If you have a solar PV system installed at your place, you won’t be required to comply by the TOU rates of your electricity distribution company. This can lead to a lot of savings on your energy bills.
4. State subsidies
Transition to solar energy requires a lot of initial investment, as the installation requires solar panels, batteries, and wiring, among various other things. As a result, people are generally skeptical about making a transition to solar energy, as they do not have the money in the first place, and they are not sure about the return period on investment. However, to make things easier, a number of state governments, as well as the central government, have come up with policies to lower the burden of investment on the people by the means of subsidies on solar panels, easy loans, etc. Some Indian states offer up to 50 percent subsidy on solar panels. All of these measures are being taken to make people switch to renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions.
5. Solar home value
Many studies have shown that investing in solar energy can increase the value of your home by many times. Thus, if you are planning to sell your property in the future, it will be a good choice to buy and set up a solar PV system. Energy bills are expected to rise in the future, and solar power is the future. Hence, people are going to prefer buying a place that has a solar PV system.
6. Sunlight is free – Zero operational cost
Conventional energy sources are dependent on natural resources, and with time, as these resources deplete and their prices go up, consumers will have to pay more in terms of their energy bills. The best thing about solar energy is that sunlight is free! Thus, apart from the initial investment that you would be making on solar PV system, in the long run, you will effectively incur no cost at all for operation. Of course, there is maintenance cost involved, but that is insignificant when compared to the benefits.
Environmental benefits of solar energy
In the previous section, we discussed the economic benefits of solar energy. As already stated, apart from the direct economic benefits that solar energy offers, there are endless environmental benefits associated with it, which are vital for sustainable growth and development. The following are some of the environmental benefits of solar energy:
1. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Fossil fuels used in conventional energy sources are the major sources of greenhouse gasses. Solar energy, on the contrary, makes use of sunlight and is a non-polluting source of energy. Thus, it helps cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.
2. Air pollution
Studies show that some 6.4 million people die every year from illnesses related to air pollution. Every year, we hear news reports about the poor quality of air in cities across the world. As solar energy has zero carbon emissions, it can help with cutting down air pollution drastically, making this world a livable, breathable place. It can contribute to the healthy lives of individuals, and reduce medical bills.
3. Social impact
Global warming has increased the incidences of forest fires, floods, droughts, and storms. It has led to rising sea levels, making people living on the coast vulnerable. In fact, global warming affects the poorest of the poor the most, destroying people’s livelihoods and devastating their lives. A transition to solar energy can help reduce global warming, and in this way, it can reap benefits for all sections of society.
4. Job creation
The solar energy sector is expanding with time, and a number of employment opportunities are becoming available to people as a result. Solar energy is, thus, responsible for job creation, which is very important for the unemployed youth in developing, low-income countries.
In this article, thus, we talked about all the major economic and environmental benefits, which are associated with solar energy. As climate change has emerged as the overarching threat the human civilization faces today, switching to alternative, green sources of energy is becoming the need of the hour. If you are amongst the ones who are skeptical of making a transition to solar energy, we would advise you to go through this article thoroughly to find out about the immense economic benefits of solar energy.