As policymakers across the U.S. continue to refine their methods of valuing solar energy development, several strategies have bubbled to the top. Some policies emphasize a market approach that, in theory, benefits both utilities and solar system owners (e.g. New York’s Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER) Tariff). While a market approach is advantageous because it incentivizes solar development based on the benefits that solar systems bring to a specific area of the electrical grid, this strategy may result in less predictable project economics. Other policies, such as Feed-In Tariffs, incentivize solar development by making project returns as predictable as possible, but conversely may over-incentivize solar development in less valuable areas of the electrical grid.
For better or worse, the U.S. has historically relied on federal tax incentives to foster renewable energy deployment. For solar energy, the 30% Investment Tax Credit and beneficial MACRs depreciation treatment have allowed solar projects to compete with the massively subsidized (and politically entrenched) forms of traditional electricity generation in the U.S., namely coal, natural gas and nuclear.