Evaluating the Impact of Third-Party Price Reporting and other Drivers on Residential Photovoltaic Price Estimates

Carolyn Davidson, Daniel Steinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus Citations


Aim: Policy-makers typically track the rapidly evolving U.S. residential photovoltaic (PV) market by relying on price data reported by PV installers/integrators to incentive programs. Recent years have witnessed a shift toward third-party-owned (TPO) business models, in which the absence of a cash purchase price obscures data interpretation. Appraisals-often based on estimates of the average fair market value across a diverse fleet of systems-are one way TPO prices are reported. Scope: This study investigates residential PV system price drivers to improve the accuracy, consistency, and relevance of PV price-tracking efforts. Our econometric approach evaluates system price drivers using California Solar Initiative data, controlling for system, installer, and geographic variables. Conclusions: We find that reported prices for confirmed appraised systems are $1.13/W higher than non-appraised systems and do not respond to hypothesized price drivers. For non-appraised systems, we find preliminary evidence of market distortions based on the impact of the incentive level, module cost and household income on reported price. Further, unspecified installer heterogeneity-possibly due to differences in products, cost structure or reporting practices-is a substantial price driver. Using estimates, we develop a price model to approximate non-appraised system prices.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)752-761
Number of pages10
JournalEnergy Policy
StatePublished - Nov 2013

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5200-57765


  • Market tracking
  • Residential photovoltaic
  • Third-party ownership


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