Installer survey finds robust competition in the U.S. market

Image: Greenskies

Yesterday online solar marketplace EnergySage released results from its second annual solar installer survey, conducted in collaboration with pv magazine. The survey of more than 360 U.S. residential and commercial and industrial solar installers revealed a competitive market, with installers reporting that customer acquisition has become more difficult and that customers are usually viewing at least three quotes before buying a PV system.

But of all the findings, the one that was most clear was the lack of popularity of third-party solar offerings, with 74% of respondents saying that they do not offer leases or power purchase agreements for rooftop solar (this trend was explored in detail in a January 10 article).

The report also gave insight into customer acquisition trends. A question on the relative difficulty of customer acquisition was nearly evenly split between those installers who said that it had become more difficult in 2016 versus less difficult, and the report additionally found that 52% of customers had seen at least three quotes before making a decision on a pv system.

Installers are not always feeling great about the role this competition plays, and 53% said the top challenge in closing sales is that their competitors had created confusion and lowered customer confidence. And this won’t necessarily get better, as roughly half of respondents expect there to be more installers in the industry in coming years, versus 37% who expect fewer installers.

EnergySage notes that despite challenges, installer confidence remains high. ”Looking back, 2016 was a year of ups and downs for solar,” said EnergySage Founder and CEO Vikram Aggarwal. “Despite the welcomed extension of the Investment Tax Credit and the reaching of one million residential U.S. solar installations, some of the industry’s largest companies struggled to stay afloat and our political climate became more uncertain.

But whether the news is good, bad or indifferent, EnergySage’s other partners in the survey have noted the importance of the information revealed. “Often, little information is available about these local, privately-held companies that are driving so much of the growth of residential solar,” notes Enphase Co-Founder and Vice President of Products and Strategic Initiatives Raghu Belur. “This report reveals what it’s like to be a solar installer in the U.S. and what their needs are, which helps us to figure out the best ways to support them through our own unique products and services.”