A Review of Solar PV Benefit & Cost Studies

Author:  Hansen, Lena | Lacy, Virginia | Glick, Devi
Organization:  Rocky Mountain Institute
Report Date: 
2013
Report Summary: 

This Rocky Mountain Institute report provides an assessment of various methodological best practices and information gaps surrounding studies of the costs and benefits of solar systems.  The effort found that there is considerable range in assessed values and that the most significant benefits from distributed solar photovoltaic systems come from customer benefits, carbon emission reduction, pollutant reduction, and increased security.

 

Key Take-Aways: 
  • No study comprehensively evaluated the benefits and costs of distributed solar energy, although many acknowledge additional sources of benefit and cost, and many agree on the broad categories of benefit and cost.
  • There is significantly less agreement on an overall approach to estimating grid support services and currently unmonetized values including financial and security risk, environment, and social value.
  • The report summarizes 11 categories of average values for distributed solar energy, including energy, avoided grid losses, generation capacities, transmission and distribution capacities, grid support, fuel hedging, market elasticity, security, pollutants, carbon, and customer benefits.
Key Facts: 
  • There is a significant range of estimated value across studies (from 1 c/kWh to 11 c/kWh) driven primarily by differences in local context, input assumptions, and methodological approaches.
  • Costs of increased distributed photovoltaic are not adequately assessed often not presented individually in studies, and range from 0 c/kWh to 35 c/kWh.