Customer-Sited PV: A Survey of Clean Energy Fund Support

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Generating electricity from the sun's rays without motion, sound, or exhaust, photovoltaic (PV) systems are perhaps the quintessential renewable energy technology. PV's widespread popularity, along with its high up-front cost and resulting need for support, have made it a prime target of state clean energy funds – virtually all funds currently in operation provide some form of support for customer-sited PV. There is less agreement among funds, however, about the most effective means of providing such support. Many funds have implemented what are commonly known as "buy-down" programs, where funds are distributed as grants to subsidize or "buy down" the initial cost of the system. Other funds have taken different approaches, soliciting proposals for specific projects, offering pre-development grants, developing infrastructure and distribution channels, or investing seed capital in budding PV manufacturers. At least one fund has considered (but not implemented) a leasing program. This report surveys the different experiences of funds trying to support customer-sited PV. The first section describes experience with buy-down programs, while the second section examines alternatives to, or variations on, buy-downs. This report also proposes further joint activity through the Clean Energy Funds Network (CEFN) to improve upon existing and future PV programs.

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