Here is an example of the Washington Post using conjecture & exaggeration. The financial payback (or ROI, Return on Investment) of solar depends upon (a) the price of existing electricity rates in the respective home, which is determined by the local utility company, and in the case of California, the Public Utilities Commission (b) whether you buy the solar system or (c) choose to lease the solar system.
(a) Electricity rates in California keep going up at steady clip. We have a tiered rate system in the Golden State, meaning the more electricity you use the more you get charged. So, displacing the expensive electricity at the top tiers pays back quicker. We have a baseline amount of electricity of roughly 350 kilowatt hours at a flat rate of 12-13 cents per kilowatt hour which is frozen and will not change, as mandated by the California State Legislature. Any electricity used over the baseline is called "over baseline" rates, where the prices of electricity can double and even triple, as in the case of PG&E's tier-5 rate of 44 cents per kilowatt hour. Anybody using electricity in all 5 tiers in PG&E territory would save money by switching to solar.
(b) Buying a solar-electric system is an investment. The solar system would pay for itself in 5-7 years, as electricity prices continue to rise. And the electricity prices in California are mandated to rise each year by the PUC. It's a no-brainer to go solar in a sun-drenched state like California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and throughout the Sun Belt of the U.S. (depending on the price of electricity from your local utility provider).
* In Los Angeles, we have the cheapest electricity rates out of all the major utility regions in the state because LADWP uses roughly 50% coal to produce its juice.
** Coal is also the dirtiest fossil fuel we can burn to create our electricity. Remember, there is an environmental cost to burning coal. Coal is dirty and cheap, and bad for our environment.
*** Solar-electricity is a CO2-free, renewable source of energy. The Sun is a nuclear reactor in the sky; it is going to be around for millions more years. All we have to do is soak up its free-floating rays. Solar-electric, aka photovoltaic, systems last 40-plus years. Photovoltaic = light energy. Photovoltaic abbreviation = PV.
(c) If you choose to lease the solar-electric system, like many people I know have done on a zero-down lease, then the payback is immediate or almost immediate; and you are saving money from day one by using solar electricity.
So, when the Washington Post reports, "Solar systems, even with government incentives, are expensive," the reporter, Pat Mertz Esswein, is guilty of spreading misinformation. Ms. Esswein is guilty of using Cande.
Sharpen your critical thinking skills, 'cause here comes some Cande...
[My comments will appear in brackets]
Switching to solar is a great way to achieve energy savings [this is true, not a myth].
Solar systems, even with government incentives, are expensive [no, this is false; solar systems save $$$ money]. The owner of a typical single-family home in the United States [there is no "typical"; every home uses different amounts of electricity and every region of the U.S. has different electricity rates] wastes almost $350 annually on heated or cooled air that escapes to the outdoors. So for most houses in most places, the first line of defense is to reduce demand, says Bruce Harley, author of "Cut Your Energy Bills Now." That means tightening up the house and its ductwork, improving insulation, switching to CFLs, upgrading appliances and changing your behavior. [Change all the lightbulbs you want and you still need electricity to run the air conditioning, computers, TV, filtration pumps for the pool, electricity in the kitchen, bathroom, garage, etc. With solar-electricity you do the most good because you change the source of your energy]. After that, if you still want to go solar, you may be able to make do with a smaller system that costs less. For example, instead of a 4-kilowatt photovoltaic system (the size recommended for the average home) -- which would cost $16,800 installed after an average state-tax incentive of 25 percent and the federal discount of 30 percent -- you might get by with a 2-kilowatt system, which would cost $8,400 [a 2.4 kilowatt system costs roughly $6,000 in Los Angeles, with the federal 30% tax credit and state rebate].**** When you go solar, you don't pay the utility company the same monthly payment. The monthly payment you would have been paying to the utility company goes toward your solar purchase or lease, and then you are saving money.