If federal, state and local policies institute a supportive regulatory environment, shared solar could expand the potential customer base for solar PV to 100 percent of homes and businesses, according to a new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). NREL estimates that 49 percent of households and 48 percent of businesses are currently unable to host a PV system. By opening the market to these customers, shared solar could represent 32 percent to 49 percent of the distributed PV market in 2020.
In its report, Shared Solar: Current Landscape, Market Potential, and the Impact of Federal Securities Regulation, NREL analyzed the impact a shared solar program’s structure has on how it is regulated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and estimates market potential for US shared solar deployment.
After accounting for the development necessary to expand the shared solar market as well as state-level policy limiting factors such as net-metering caps, NREL found that shared solar could lead to cumulative US PV deployment growth of 5.5-11.0 GW between 2015 and 2020, representing a $8.2–$16.3 billion cumulative investment.
Uncertainty about the applicability of SEC requirements for the registration and disclosure of shared solar projects is one of the largest barriers to widespread adoption of the shared solar business model. If an interest in a shared solar project is a “security,” then it is regulated by the SEC and has the potential to significantly impact the way a shared solar program operates. Shared solar offerings that are marketed and structured to reduce customers’ retail electricity bills are less likely to be treated as securities than those marketed and structured primarily as profit-generating programs.
Because PV business models and regulatory environments have not been designed to expand access to a significant portion of potential PV system customers, the economic, environmental and social benefits of distributed PV have not been available to all consumers, NREL says. Shared solar programs would open up the market to the other half of businesses and households.