GREEN LIVING ASKED LOCAL SOLAR INSIDERS,
“WHAT CAN WE DO TO GET SOLAR BACK IN THE HANDS OF THE CONSUMER?”
Interesting question. It depends on the customer. Certain electrical users cannot afford the upfront costs of solar installations. They’re just getting by. So, to get them to switch, you need a very reasonably priced lease or lease to purchase agreement that meets their needs. For others with the cash assets, they need to understand the return on investment. At current rates of return and with an average homeowner energy usage, investing $15,000 in a photovoltaic system will provide greater annual returns than investing those funds in relatively safe market investments.The single best way to get someone to switch to solar energy is to have a neighbor or friend give them a recommendation. I gave a presentation to a homeowners’ association on solar applications. I was getting through to some, but also getting pushback from one fairly forceful person. Then, a neighbor showed up and said, “Buying my solar system was the best investment I ever made.” And that was that.
Billy Parish | President | Solar Mosaic
Finance has always been the key to unleashing solar. Though the advent of solar leases worked wonders to lower the high upfront cost of solar, it is still largely inaccessible to renters, homeowners without the proper roofs, and lower-income people. Solar Mosaic is working hard to remove these boundaries by letting everyone invest in solar projects in their communities and around the world.
Michelle De Blasi | Partner | Quarles & Brady
Access to solar energy at the consumer level can take many forms, whether by incorporating rooftop solar into residences and businesses, using solar power generated from utility-scale projects, or purchasing products from companies that utilize solar energy to make their products. Whatever the form, the most important element of increasing consumer access to solar power is education. Consumers need to be aware of the implications on cost and efficiency, depending on the different applications for utilizing solar power. It is critical that consumers understand that it may take additional time and expense to integrate solar power as a larger component of our energy portfolio, and that most of the expense will ultimately be borne by the consumer on one level or another. Consequently, consumers need to ensure they are electing candidates who most effectively support solar initiatives.
I think the answer to your question is “to make solar affordable” not just by lowering the installed cost, but by recognizing the appropriate financing vehicles and facilitating their adoption. Over half of all solar in the U.S. (both residential and non-residential) is financed, meaning the customer uses someone else’s money to pay for it. Ready access to financing needs to be combined with a low cost of capital. Again, to use a consumer-based example, how many people take advantage of “zero percent” (or low interest rate) financing from auto makers each year? Tons! Today’s leasing programs for solar have already made a huge impact, but that’s just the start. PACE programs (where a municipality essentially guarantees a low-interest loan to finance solar for a property owner) show promise, and there are many more opportunities that await.
Greg Stanton | Mayor of Phoenix
Enabling our citizens to have access to clean, affordable and dependable energy supplies is crucially important. I believe that the City has to work with its many partners – utilities, private organizations, public/private partnerships – to help encourage the deployment of solar on rooftops. We have the tools; it is time to put them to work in order to make solar happen.