Installers more confident in the solar industry than ever, survey says

More than half of the distributed solar installers surveyed by EnergySage and the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) say they are more confident in the solar industry than ever, despite the fact they are likely going to have to absorb the effects of President Donald J. Trump’s 30% tariffs on imported cells and modules.

The Solar Installer Survey also found installers also say interest in solar+storage has increased among their customers.

Given some of the headwinds the solar industry has faced in the past 12 to 18 months, the results may come as something of a surprise. Between the Section 201 trade case, a module shortage and more states trying to put barriers in the way of rooftop installers around the country, pessimism might be expected to reign.

Fortunately, solar installers are a resilient lot.

The best news is that confidence rose the most in states that are still emerging as solar leaders like Massachusetts, North Carolina and Washington, though confidence in the most established solar state – California – has dropped 27% year on year. The report’s authors suggest the drop in California results primarily from customer-acquisition challenges and rapidly shifting policy.

And it’s not all sunshine and roses, even outside of California. Installers are asking for the rest of the industry to step up customer service and support from manufacturers, financiers and software providers as the market becomes ever more competitive.

Interestingly, two-thirds of installers say they will not pass one the costs of Trump’s 30% tariff on to customers, eating the cost themselves instead. The finding is in line with another survey finding, which indicated installers are focusing more on increasing marketshare than improving their margins.

“For the second year in a row, confidence in the solar industry among installers is on the rise, with a meaningful jump in 2017,” said Vikram Aggarwal, founder and CEO of EnergySage.

“From speaking with our installers across the country, we believe there are several reasons for continued optimism. Consumer interest in solar energy and home energy storage has never been higher. Given that prices remain competitive and the solar tariff is expected to only have a limited short-term impact, solar installers have much to look forward to in 2018 and beyond.”

EnergySage fielded this survey between December 14th, 2017 and January 13th, 2018. In addition to EnergySage, NABCEP, the leading certification organization for renewable energy professionals, as well as several large manufacturers, distributors, and industry associations sent the survey to their own installer networks. In total, replies were taken from 587 solar installers located across 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

This article was edited on 2/22/2018 to correct the fact that 30% of installers are finding an increased interest in solar+storage. An earlier version said requests for solar+storage system had risen 33%, which is incorrect.