Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, April 13, 2015

Talk to focus on pricing of installed solar photovoltaic systems

The pricing of installed solar photovoltaic systems in the United States from 2000 to 2013 will be discussed in a noon seminar on Tuesday, April 21, in the La Follette School conference room.

Professor Greg Nemet and student Eric O'Shaughnessy will present.

Electricity from solar is potentially an important technology for future energy supply. The underlying resource is large and widely available. Prices have dropped dramatically, by a factor of 100 since the technology was first commercialized in the 1970s and by half in just the past two years. The net social benefits of solar are difficult to estimate because of the intrinsically local aspects of the power generation it offsets and the stresses on the electric grid it introduces.

But even looking simply at prices paid today, there is remarkable heterogeneity. For systems installed in 2013, the 10-90 percentile range for the observed dollars per megawatt of electricity spans more than a factor of 2. This apparent price dispersion raises policy questions, such as: Would more informed consumers increase the social benefits of solar photovoltaic systems?

This talk presents results to date of a multi-year project aimed at addressing three questions: What have been the biggest influences on photovoltaic systems prices? What are the characteristics of low-cost systems? Why is there so much variation in prices?

The April 21 session is the second-to-last La Follette School Seminar for the school year. On May 5, Jon Pevehouse, of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Political Science, will speak at noon in the La Follette School conference room.