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Funding programs are a driving force in the development of the solar PV market. They have been used in a variety of ways to stimulate growth, extend electricity generation in remote rural areas, and support research, development and technology demonstration.

Market stimulation has been driven by two needs:

  • Reduce the higher cost of solar-generated electricity relative to power from conventional hydrocarbon sources
  • Minimize the high initial cost of PV systems, even where they may provide cost-effective long-term solutions

Market stimulation policies recognize that growth of the solar market has been constrained by poor awareness of the capability of PV, and that costs will continue to steadily decline through a combination of technological advances and manufacturing economies of scale. In developing countries, there has also been a desire to promote PV as a clean power source to improve basic living standards, which has attracted developmental funding from international bodies.

Solar market stimulation also is intended to capture the jobs that can be created by the development of such a major new industry, whether in manufacturing or in marketing of PV products and services. Funding has therefore sought to break the cycle of an emerging industry that needs a big enough market to generate the returns to provide the investments that will make it cost-competitive in the long term.

For Grid-Connected Projects

Financial assistance is available in many countries and states from federal and local government. Assistance may range from a tax credit on the purchase of a PV system to a rebate towards the initial purchase of the system. It may provide for a high (subsidized) rate for the purchase of electricity exported from the PV system to the grid (a rate-based subsidy). Such rebate and rate-based subsidy approaches have been successful in growing the PV market in Germany and Japan.

However, their long-term impact as the level of subsidy diminishes or disappears has yet to be established. Separately or in combination with the above measures, banks may work in partnership with governments and utilities to offer low-interest loans to finance the system purchase.

Local governments may also offer financial support especially where there are local environmental concerns or where job creation is being sought. In some countries, free-market mechanisms (solar power exchanges) have emerged to encourage purchase of solar-generated electricity at commercial rates and match it to PV power generation projects.

For Off-Grid Projects

Developmental aid funding from multi-lateral and bi-lateral aid agencies includes loans for infrastructure development, loans and grants for the provision of technical services, equity funding for new ventures, and export credit guarantees. Several agencies have programs that specifically include solar activities. Major projects in the tens of millions of dollars have installed PV systems in remote villages in countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines.

A growing trend is the funding of sustainable, locally-based enterprises that can provide PV systems in an affordable way through micro-finance, using revolving funds, for example.

For Utilities

Utilities are increasingly responding to the demand for green electricity by looking at ways to finance growth in their renewable generating capacity. This has been especially effective in the United States. Utilities may raise funds by voluntary levies on customers or by charging a premium green electricity tariff and matching the revenue generated with investment in plants. Alternatively, they may choose to invest in systems sited on the customers' premises and lease them to the consumer. Overall, this provides a route to market growth that is relatively free of government intervention.

For Businesses

Businesses in industrialized or developing countries may be able to obtain funding for the creation or expansion of solar-based business activities from a range of international or regional private institutions, charitable institutions or investment funds that specialize in this area. These may take the form of grants, loans at preferential rates or equity injection.

For Manufacturers and Researchers

Some national and international funding programs provide support for research, development and demonstration of PV technology. These can range from laboratory-based activity to technical improvements on a manufacturing line to the first application of a newly developed technology.

Learn More

Solarbuzz offers a comprehensive guide to the funding sources available. Learn more about how to fund PV market development and get direct guidance on where to obtain funding with our global and regional PV market reports.

 

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