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Report: red tape keeping cost of home solar high

A new whitepaper says eliminating regulations around rooftop solar could cut costs for homeowners in half.

The paper, “A Roadmap for Reducing Rooftop Solar Costs by 50%”, comes from Solar Freedom Now (SFN), a group whose mission is to reduce U.S. solar costs  by eliminating red tape.

SFN charges that despite the steep decline in the cost of solar panels over the past few years, U.S. homeowners still pay more for rooftop solar than people in other countries thanks to “soft costs.”

These costs include permitting, complicated documentation, inspections, interconnection requirements – and all the time these regulations add to the installation process. The whitepaper specifically compares the cost breakdown between the U.S. and Germany, and finds that a home solar energy system in the U.S. costs almost double that in Germany.

Credit: Solar Freedom Now

SFN says lower costs can be more quickly passed on to consumers by reducing red tape rather than, for example, technological breakthroughs or further government incentives.

“In order to lower the price of a solar system, it’s easier to find a way to cut red tape by 20% than to find another 20% in incentives or reduced equipment costs” says Ron Kenedi, co-founder of SFN. “Eliminating the paperwork and red tape is the industry’s biggest cost saving opportunity.”

SFN claims that regulations are expanding rather than decreasing, and that the varied paperwork across jurisdictions is “a brick wall impeding the solar industry’s cost reduction goals.”

The group suggests replacing the existing localized regulations for home PV installations with a single nation-wide policy, allowing homeowners to “install a standardized, under 10kw system, using UL listed components, following National Electrical Code standards, installed by a qualified contractor and subject to a single local inspection.”

This approach, SFN says, could cut the price of rooftop PV in half, and would also reduce the need for government incentives.

“Cutting this red tape is a message that appeals to both sides of the political aisle, and will help the solar industry grow even faster without the need for additional incentives,” said SFN co-founder Barry Cinnamon.

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