2020 Solar Installer Survey shows the pandemic can’t crack industry confidence

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Installer confidence in the solar industry has never been higher, according to the results of EnergySage and the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners’ sixth annual Solar Installer Survey.

The survey, which included responses from over 650 residential and commercial installers across 48 states and two territories: Washington DC and Puerto Rico, offers a snapshot of what the solar industry looks like through the lens of its installers.

As a start, more than 50% of respondents reported that their businesses were negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Even so, confidence in the health of the solar industry has never been higher, the report said.

One pandemic-induced shift, selling solar systems remotely, is here to stay.
For the fourth year in a row, installers are more confident than ever in the solar industry, with 60% saying they were more confident in 2020 than they were in 2019.  Around 2% said they were significantly less confident in the industry.

The report credits some of the confidence to the survey’s timing: responses were collected after both the November election and extension of the federal investment tax credit, and before the blackouts in Texas.

Remote selling is here to stay

One pandemic-induced shift, selling solar systems remotely, is here to stay, at least in some capacity, the report said. Some 12% of installers surveyed said they plan to sell entirely remotely. Others said they plan to use online selling as a tool, but not rely on it entirely. The split largely was over whether or not respondents had already begun to sell in person again, or if they planned on doing so in the near future.

On the installations front, 2020 marked the “best year ever” for residential energy storage installations, with the storage attachment rate jumping more than 30% between 2019 and 2020. That resulted in a nationwide average attachment rate of 20%.

Respondents said that nearly half of all customers showed interest in energy storage in 2020. Interest was high in states that experience frequent headline-grabbing weather events, like California and North Carolina.

Storage barriers

Resilience was found to be the overall largest driver of storage interest and adoption, and cost remained the biggest barrier. More than three-quarters of respondents named battery costs as the primary barrier to increasing storage attachment rates. Two-fifths of respondents said a lack of storage incentives was a barrier to adoption.

Among the residential storage options available to customers, Tesla was the most widely requested brand; installers also said they are most likely to stock LG Energy Solutions batteries. The percentage of installers stocking LG batteries fell, however, from 56% in 2019 to 44% in 2020.

As for other hardware, the most-requested solar modules by consumers were LG. And the most-requested inverters were Enphase and SolarEdge.

Satisfaction with battery offerings has also become an issue among installers. Roughly 14% of installers said they were very satisfied with their battery brand, while three out of a small sample of five survey respondents said they have a neutral or unfavorable view toward their battery brand.

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