Survey of US homeowners reveals strong support for solar that crosses political boundaries

Echoing the results of similar surveys of Australians, a recent poll conducted by Zogby Analytics for US solar giant SolarCity and Clean Edge, the vast majority of American homeowners are keen on going solar–and this interest crosses party lines. The survey also reveals, however, that although this is the case, real and perceived price barriers remain an issue in expansion of residential solar power uptake.

Most households would like to have choices when going solar, with the option of purchasing solar from their utility, owning their own or having one installed through a 3rd party, the survey shows. While most are already satisfied with their utility, 88% said that they were interested in getting more renewable energy delivered to their homes. 62% expressed a specific interest in solar. Importantly, if their utility doesn’t offer solar, homeowners said that they would seek out a 3rd party-owned system (via a solar leasing deal or power purchase agreement) or purchase a system themselves. As solar becomes more affordable, this could threaten the business model of utilities that don’t adapt to the new reality–much as it seems to be doing to utilities in Australia as well. 

The majority (70%) of those surveyed said that their concern for the environment played some role in their interest in solar, but in the end this was trumped by economics. However, less than half of respondents (45%) realised that the cost of solar power had fallen in the last 3 years, while 28% thought solar costs had remained the same during this period and another 13% believed they had risen. In fact, as they have in Australia, solar PV system prices have fallen significantly in recent years.

The fact that homeowners of all political persuasions expressed that they would like to have solar panels on their roofs is not insignificant in a country where the topic of renewable energy and government support for renewable energy is a politically-charged one. Ron Pernick, Managing Director of Clean Edge, said, “This poll shows homeowners, whether self-defined as Republican, Democrat, or independent, want choice. And that is strongest, at 83 percent, among conservatives. Independents are at 73 percent. Liberals, at 57 percent, will accept the market being a little less open.” (N.B. The term ‘liberal’ in the US is used to denote more left-wing tendencies.)

The Australian residential solar market was significantly larger than that of the US in 2013, with around 250,000 home solar systems installed here vs about 150,000 in the States. This is thanks in great part to the affordability of solar power in Australia, bolstered by incentives available through the country’s Renewable Energy Target (RET). Currently under review, any weakening of the RET could mean higher solar system prices for Australian households. The solar industry and concerned citizens are therefore fighting for the RET to be kept in its current form.

Top chart via SolarCity

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