Energy and Resources Group Fall 2014 Colloquium Series (ER295)
What is “socket” parity and is rooftop solar PV there yet without subsidies?
Department of Engineering & Public Policy
Carnegie Mellon University
In recent years, the market for rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) technology has changed significantly, largely driven by government and state incentive programs, abundant supply of low-cost silicon, and substantial drops in module prices. However, if the use of rooftop solar PV is to continue to grow, it is important that it become cost competitive without the use of subsidies. From the customer’s perspective, the term “socket” parity describes when the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) provided by the installation is equivalent to the retail electricity rate provided by distribution utility companies. When assessing the economic viability of residential solar PV, existing literature typically considers few locations and fails to consider the cost and price differences that exist across different states. By using solar insolation data from more than 1,000 station locations, installation costs by region, and state-average utility rates, this paper provides a more complete assessment of the economic viability of rooftop solar PV across the country as measured by the projects’ net present values (NPV). We perform sensitivity analyses and evaluate the reductions in installed costs needed to reach socket parity. Among the scenarios considered, we estimate that only Hawaii has fully achieved socket parity without the use of subsidies.
Dr. Paulina Jaramillo has a bachelor’s in civil and environmental engineering from Florida International University (2003), as well as a master’s and PhD in civil and environmental engineering with an emphasis in green design from Carnegie Mellon University (2004 and 2007, respectively). Her past research has focused on life cycle assessment of energy systems with an emphasis on climate change impacts. Between 2010 and 2014, she was the executive director of the RenewElec project at Carnegie Mellon University, which looked at challenges and opportunities for the large-scale integration of variable and intermittent renewable resources into the U.S. power system. She is currently involved in key multi-disciplinary research projects to better understand the issues related to climate impacts, mitigation, and adaptation in the global energy system. In a world in which climate change is no longer
avoidable, we will need to better understand the continued impacts of the energy system on the changing climate, continue mitigating these impacts, and adapt our energy infrastructure to the challenges that now seem inevitable. For her research, Dr. Jaramillo looks for opportunities to create interdisciplinary collaborations and use methods from a wide range of disciplines including engineering, social decision sciences, statistics, and economics.