This study builds a decision support tool to evaluate when it is a good economic decision (least cost with minimum discomfort) for the residential customer to invest in distributed energy resources (DERs) based on different electricity rate structures, DER ownership frameworks, and DER rebates offered by electric utilities. The tool is demonstrated using empirical electricity consumption data from Pecan Street Inc. (a non-profit entity based on Austin, Texas), residential rates from Austin Energy (the municipal electric utility in Austin, Texas), DER ownership costs from various nationwide pilot programs, and incentives offered by electric utilities in the United States. Results show that for constant electricity rates, the overall expenditure is least when the customer owns solar panels without storage, while for time-varying pricing structures, the least expensive scenario is one where the customer does not own any DERs. As the capital costs for DERs decline, utilities incentivize customer ownership of DERs, and more residential customers face the decision of whether to invest in DERs, this study aims to be a key tool in aiding that decision-making process.

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