SmartPower, which is reportedly “the nation’s leading non-profit organization for energy efficiency and clean energy,” recently embarked on a 20-week pilot program aimed at encouraging more people to put solar panels on their roofs. The result was apparently quite an increase in people going solar. So, let’s have a look at what the organization did, and the specific results.
To start with, residents were offered the option of buying solar power through SmartPower’s Solarize program, which resulted in them saving about $7,500 on average compared to current market averages.
Well, yes, $7,500 in savings is going to attract customers! Compared to the average solar adoption rate from the previous 7 years, the rate of solar power purchases in the participating communities was 24 to 64 times higher. Of course, with solar costs coming down tremendously in recent years, a lot more people should be going solar anyway, but a 24- to 64-time increase still must be well above what would be expected otherwise.
One other important note on the results is that approximately 20% of the people who bought solar through the program said that they had never previously considered purchasing solar power.
So, with all that said, how exactly does the Solarize project work?
For one, the program offers “tiered group buying discounts.” The more people who sign up to go solar, the further the price of going solar drops.
Furthermore, participating towns and volunteers engaged in outreach to inform people about the program.
On the supplier side of the equation, the program partnered with solar installers who went solar through a competitive selection process (and used pre-approved equipment). Facilitating more competition surely helped to cut back on the considerable “soft costs” of going solar, which are much higher in the US than in Germany or other more mature solar markets.
One more important component of the program is that the solar discounts had an end date designated. Obviously, this is an effective way to motivate action — look at how many stores and manufacturers offer sales with a clear end date on the horizon.
Nothing here is particularly complicated, yet I haven’t previously seen a program so aggressively focused on reducing the costs of going solar for specific communities. Highly replicable with excellent results, I’d love to see this type of program implemented across the US and in other countries, as well.