Water still wet: Financial concerns drive decision to go solar

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Who could possibly have guessed that most homeowners see solar as a hedge against rising electricity prices? (Everyone. Everyone could have guessed that.)
But now those “guesses” have a scientific study to back them up. Rumor has it that their next survey will be into whether water is still wet, followed by a survey about whether the Pope is Catholic.
OK, enough sarcasm. On to the survey results.

Provoke Insights, a market research and strategy firm, surveyed 2,666 consumers across the country for its 2017 Residential Solar Industry Study. To exactly no one’s surprise, the primary driving factor behind the decision to go solar remains financial.

“People are motivated to buy solar because of the dramatic cost savings,” said Carly Fink, principal, head of strategy and research, Provoke Insights. “The cost of residential solar to consumers has decreased by 40% over the past five years, making the decision to go solar completely viable for an increasing number of homeowners.”

What may be less obvious to many installers is that most decisions (66%, according to the survey) come from in-person recommendations from neighbors who already have installed systems.

Although the industry has always assumed this was true and anecdotally knew this, Provoke’s finding that 66% of decisions are made based on such recommendations is a bit of an eye-opener.

Also interesting is that of the three primary methods of paying for solar electricity systems (lease, loan or cash), the cash and leasing options are even at 36%, with loans coming in at 28%.

The finding undermines solar’s critics’ contention that solar is too expensive for average Americans to afford. Given that around one-third of system owners are paying cash, they obviously can afford to do an installation without busting their household budgets.

Following are study highlights:

  • 41% of those surveyed say that the primary reason for choosing solar is potential savings over time and protection against rate increases from the utility company.
  • More than half of solar users say that 75% of their electric bill is covered by solar.
  • Men are 66% more likely to be the decision-maker in purchasing a solar energy system. Political party affiliation does not dictate the choice to switch to solar.
  • Regarding aesthetics, roof orientation is a concern for 70% of solar energy users; panel aesthetics are a concern among 63% of women vs. 59% of men.
  • 66% of solar energy users would install a solar energy system again if they moved to a different house.
  • 50% of consumers will choose a solar provider based on the recommendation of a neighbor or friend.

The study was commissioned by module manufacturer SunPower, and Provoke reports the margin of error is +/-1.9%.