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Podcast

Installing solar panels.
<p>Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images</p>

Rooftop solar is four times more expensive in America than it is in other countries. It’s also good for the climate. Should we even care about its high cost?

Yes, says Severin Borenstein, an economist and the director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. In a recent blog post, he argued that the high cost of rooftop solar will shift nearly $4 billion onto the bills of low- and middle-income Californians who don’t have rooftop solar. Similar forces could soon spread the cost-shift problem across the country.

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A house with solar panels.
<p>Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images</p>

Why isn’t rooftop solar cheaper in America? In Australia in 2024, a standard rooftop system can cost as little as 90 cents per watt. In the U.S., a similar system might go for $4 per watt. If America could come even close to Australia’s rooftop solar prices, then we would be able to decarbonize the power system much faster than we are now.

Mary Powell has the answers. She is the chief executive officer of Sunrun, a $2.6 billion company that is the country’s largest rooftop solar and battery installer. Sunrun has set up or managed more than 900,000 rooftop systems across the U.S. Powell previously led Green Mountain Power, Vermont’s largest investor-owned power company.

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