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Solar news: December 11th, 2020

In this week’s Solar News Roundup, New York’s pension fund begins fossil fuel divestment, and a new study in New England reveals more than $1 billion in savings thanks to local solar power.

New York State pension fund to drop fossil fuel stocks

This week, the state comptroller of New York announced that the $226 billion New York State pension fund (one of the world’s largest and most influential investors) will drop many of its fossil fuel stocks over the next five years, and continue selling shares in other companies that contribute to global warming through the year 2040. Given the fund’s size and market influence, this move may accelerate a shift in global markets as a whole away from gas and oil companies.

Thomas DiNapoli, the state comptroller, has resisted selling off fossil fuel stocks in the fund for some time to protect guaranteed retirement savings for over a million state and municipal workers, but now says that the new divestment plan is the best way to protect the fund and set it up for long-term success. “New York State’s pension fund is at the leading edge of investors addressing climate risk, because investing for the low-carbon future is essential to protect the fund’s long-term value,” said DiNapoli.

New York joins a worldwide movement of divestment plans – pension funds in Ireland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have already implemented such changes. Along with these funds, New York’s decision will put significant financial clout behind the effort to decarbonize and invest in renewables.

New England collectively saved more than $1.1 billion thanks to local solar power from 2014 to 2019

According to newly released data from ISO New England, the region’s grid operator, utilities and customers saved more than $1.1 billion from 2014 to 2019 thanks to local solar installations. These benefits were enjoyed by everyone on the grid with an electric bill, not just those with solar installations on their roofs.

Synapse Economics, a Boston-based energy consulting firm, analyzed the data from ISO New England to come up with the $1.1 billion figure. Their analysis took into account two important ways in which energy cost savings build up due to local solar installations. First, on the hottest, sunniest days, local solar meets a high percentage of peak demand, which reduces the amount of electricity utilities have to produce. And second, that decreased demand for electricity means that ratepayers have to pay less overall because utilities can produce less expensive electricity.

Summed up, “…producing renewable energy locally means that utilities don’t have to purchase as much energy to meet peak demand, and what they do purchase is less expensive than it would be with higher demand,” said Pat Knight, an economic analyst at Synapse and the lead author of the report.


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