COST EFFECTIVE SOLAR PV?

In 2006, SB 1was signed into law creating the California Solar Initiative (CSI).  Among other things, this legislation directed the California Energy Commission to perform a study to investigate whether or not solar PV systems are “cost effective” for new commercial buildings.  Such a study is considered a prerequisite to the adoption of solar as a mandate as all measures in the CEC energy standards must be “cost-effective over the life of the structure”.

After six years of investigation, the CEC has released a report concluding that, given certain “assumptions,” solar PV systems can be cost-effective for residential and most commercial buildings.  However, several of these critical “assumptions” are highly questionable over the long-haul and place into question the report’s conclusions.  For instance:

1. The report assumes “Net Energy Metering” will be available to 100% of solar owners in the near future.  At present, the state caps NEM at 5% and each of the major utilities strongly oppose increasing that cap.

2. The report assumes a 20%-40% reduction in panel and labor costs within the next 4-5 years.  A 20%-40% reduction in labor costs is highly suspect.

Industry representatives are filing comments raising these and a host of other concerns with the study.

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