The state of Vermont might have solved the problem of solar’s ‘soft costs’ — as well as provided an impetus for increased solar penetration with a re-vamped feed-in tariff.
Solar pricing in the U.S. is driven by materials costs, as it is everywhere. But the states in the U.S. possess an inconsistent, time-consuming, and costly permitting process, often lumped in as the ‘soft costs’ of a solar installation. That’s why the dollar-per-watt cost of solar in the U.S. is significantly higher than in Germany.
A DOE report from last year claims that inconsistencies in permitting can cost consumers up to $2,500 on a 5-kilowatt rooftop solar system. Solar financier SunRun has said that the wasted money from permitting inefficiencies “looks like a $1 billion tax on solar over the next five years.” The cost stems from the time spent by installers in getting the building, zoning, and fire department permits, waiting for inspection and utilities, dealing with changes — and losing customers in the process. The report adds that Germany has a 40 percent installation price advantage over the United States.
Vermont has shown that the solar permitting beast can be tamed.