SolarCity to offer Airbnb hosts solar installation incentive

A collaborative partnership between U.S. solar leasing provider SolarCity and home-sharing pioneer Airbnb has been created to incentivize the wider uptake of solar energy among the peer-to-peer homestay network.

In states and regions where both firms operate, Airbnb hosts who sign up to have SolarCity install a rooftop PV array on their property can receive up to $1,000 in cash back, while SolarCity customers who join the Airbnb network as hosts will be given a $100 Airbnb travel credit.

The partnership aims to build upon Airbnb’s claim that its home sharing model is the most environmentally sustainable way to travel. A report produced by the peer-to-peer platform – and based on methodology developed by Cleantech Group – found that by using Airbnb instead of hotels, travelers in the U.S. last year reduced water consumption by 4.2 billion liters (approximately enough to fill 1,700 Olympic-size pools), helped cut greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 560,000 cars off the road, cut general waste by 37,000 metric tons, and lowered energy consumption by an amount similar to that consumed by 280,000 households.

According to Airbnb’s head of global public policy and communications, Chris Lehane, the average Airbnb guest night results in 61% less CO2 emissions compared to a night in a hotel. “Travelers, especially millennials, want a more sustainable choice and homeowners want to make better use of the 12 million empty houses and 36 million empty bedrooms in the U.S. alone,” said Lehane.

By partnering with SolarCity, Lehane added, Airbnb hosts can seize even greater control of their energy needs and help to augment these energy savings. SolarCity calculates that an average rooftop solar PV system offsets more than 150 metric tons of CO2 pollution over its lifetime – the same as offsetting 125 roadtrips from San Francisco to New York.

“This partnership with Airbnb will create the first opportunity for many home-sharing guests to stay in a solar-powered home, and allow them to experience first-hand how easy it is to use clean energy to contribute to a cleaner, healthier society,” said SolarCity’s president of global sales, Toby Corey.

The partnership has earned the warm approval of Vote Solar executive director Adam Browning, who remarked: “U.S. energy consumers overwhelmingly want more solar powering their homes and communities, so it’s exciting to see business leaders like Airbnb working to meet that demand head on.”

Solar and tourism has thus far been a largely untapped source of revenue and expansion for both sectors, but Airbnb’s Annise Parker, who is a member of the company’s mayoral advisory board, said that expanding sustainability programs in tourism markets is a key driver of economic development initiatives of cities across the world. “This is an economic and environmental win,” she said.

While a $1,000 cashback on an investment likely to cost many times more that figure may appear merely tokenistic, SolarCity’s various payment plans – which include zero upfront costs and regular monthly instalments – allied to the kudos that comes with flexing one’s green credentials, could well see the incentive scheme curry favor with plenty of potential and current hosts.

The incentive of $1,000 is available only between now and March 2017, after which point it falls to $750 for the remainder of the year. Payment is to be made within four to six weeks of the solar panels being installed, SolarCity said.