Banking on the sun

, January 2013


Last month, David Crane and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. wrote in the New York Times about the potential of rooftop solar to make the United States more disaster-resilient and energy independent and at the same time democratize electricity generation.  They rightly pointed out that in Germany, where rooftop solar is now much less expensive than in the United States, renewable energy provides dividends to homeowners and is breaking records for clean energy generation.

While Germany is a great example of success in distributed generation, the advent of solar leasing in the U.S. promises to make investing in solar even easier.  SolarCity, whose stock price surged nearly 50% after their initial public offering, has been a pioneer in solar leasing, which allows homeowners to install solar with no money down.  Sungevity has begun to test this model abroad in Australia and Holland.  This morning, Solar Mosaic took this model a step further by allowing individuals to take the place of banks and large corporations in bankrolling profitable solar investments, even if they don’t have a roof to put it on. Further, the Brookings Institution and Stanford’s Steyer-Taylor center have been promoting policy to create even more avenues for crowd-funding of clean energy.

Solar leasing and crowd-funding are moving forward to make investing in clean energy an option for more people, and policy can help. Effective policy can bring down costs, leading us closer to clean energy investments that are profitable. For example, experts are studying how policy can streamline permitting, interconnection, and customer acquisition, all of which are often expensive, time-consuming, paperwork laden processes.

CPI is studying how solar leasing has had an impact on access to solar, costs, and deployment, as well as what it means for policy. Our results will be released in March.


One Response

  1. Donald says:

    All power sources have drbakacws. The two you mention, like nuclear, are relatively clean, which is a plus.Hydro is very cheap for the amount of energy we get, but our rivers are basically all dammed up already there isn’t a lot more hydropower we can get.Solar is one of the most expensive ways to generate electricity on a utility scale, but could be the cheapest way to generate electricity on a homeowner scale, at least for many urban homes. Unless one has a stream running through their property to run a water wheel, or strong steady wind, the other choices for getting power are using a gas- or oil-powered generator, or buying retail electricity from the grid. The generator will cost more per kWh over the life of the system, and the grid electricity could be more or less expensive, depending on where one lives. At the moment, the grid is usually cheaper, but not in all parts of the country.

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