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Incentive Pass-through for residential Solar Systems in California

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Abstract:

The deployment of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems has grown rapidly over the last decade, partly because of various government incentives. In the United States, among the largest and longest-running incentives have been those established in California. Building on past research, this report addresses the still-unanswered question: to what degree have the direct PV incentives in California been passed through from installers to consumers? This report helps address this question by carefully examining the residential PV market in California (excluding a certain class of third-party-owned PV systems) and applying both a structural-modeling approach and a reduced-form regression analysis to estimate the incentive pass-through rate. The results suggest an average pass-through rate of direct incentives of nearly 100%, though with regional differences among California counties. While these results could have multiple explanations, they suggest a relatively competitive market and well-functioning subsidy program. Further analysis is required to determine whether similar results broadly apply to other states, to other customer segments, to all third-party-owned PV systems, or to all forms of financial incentives for solar (considering not only direct state subsidies, but also utility electric bill savings and federal tax incentives). 

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University of Texas at Austin, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)

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