BloombergNEF, Schneider Electric Outline Steps Needed to Expand Rooftop Solar

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by | Sep 16, 2021

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A joint report by research firm BloombergNEF and Schneider Electric entitled Realizing the Potential of Customer-Sited Solar found that 167 million households and 23 million businesses worldwide could host their own clean power generation, exceeding 2,000 gigawatts of solar and 1,000 gigawatt-hours of energy storage, by 2050. Earlier this month, the Department of Energy published its Solar Futures Study that found solar could supply nearly half of the US’s electricity needs by 2050.

The opportunity for such an expansion is made possible by rapidly falling solar costs, which declined by 82% between 2010 and 2020. Still, authors noted that “policy and tariff design will be critical to enable [these deployments].

Researchers stated that the most effective way of increasing solar adoption among businesses and households is demonstrating the economic benefits, “usually in the form of high internal rates of return or short payback periods.” In regions with less favorable economic conditions, “policy makers are introducing targeted incentives to create favorable market conditions and bring forward deployment.” France, for instance, offers subsidies that afford commercial installations a nine-year payback.

Installing solar during construction of new buildings is the most cost-effective option, reducing “soft costs” such as marketing and sales costs as well as labor and construction costs. In California, adding solar at the point of construction doubles the internal rate of return vis-à-vis adding solar to existing homes.

Another piece of the solar puzzle is building out energy storage infrastructure in the form of batteries to save excess solar-powered electricity generated during the day for use in the evening when the sun is no longer shining. Apart from dedicated batteries, vehicle-to-grid technology, which utilizes the batteries of parked electric vehicles for electricity storage to supply the grid when needed, is one promising new technology.

In addition to increasing overall solar capacity, more efficiently consuming existing capacity boosts the viability of a solar-powered electric infrastructure. Smart grids can help balance electricity consumption with tools such as time-of-use rates, which charge less for electricity during the day and more during the night, along with adjusted export rates, which pay solar energy owners more for their electricity at night than during the day.

Discussing the benefits of installing solar, the report cited energy savings, enhanced property values, and employment opportunities as three among many.

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