Analysts at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently published a new Energy Policy report, which cites that the solar lease business is picking up, at least in southern California. The report states that less affluent neighborhoods are the primary adopters of the solar lease model.
It is of note that for the study, the NREL considered the less affluent neighborhoods to be those where the average household income was US$100,000 or more, compared to US$150,000 or more, which represents the average household income of customers who typically buy their solar energy systems.
The NREL advised that it did not look at individual system adopters, but still concluded that third-party leasing has seen a definite increase. According to the analysts, using data from its study, rooftop solar could attract an additional 13 million Americans. NREL's Easan Drury is the lead author of the Energy Policy report entitled, The Transformation of Southern California's Residential Photovoltaics Market through Third-Party Ownership.
“What is so interesting about the southern California data is that the strong decrease in PV prices — from lower retail costs and stronger federal incentives — didn't pick up a new demographic,” Drury said. “But a new business model — leasing — did pick up a new customer demographic.”
Drury noted that customers respond more positively if told that they can save on their monthly electric bill, rather than the idea that the system will pay for itself in a decade. “If someone comes up to you and says you can make money next month and forever, that totally changes how people see the value of solar,” commented Drury.