Originally published on the ECOreport.
The days when close to 70% of California’s residential solar installations were leased may be over. Tara Kelly, chair of the San Diego chapter of CALSEIA, said most residential customers now prefer owning solar panels.
Residential Customers Prefer Owning Solar
Speaking for her own employer, where she is Deputy Director of Community Development, Ms Kelly added, “While it can fluctuate, about 96 percent of Sullivan Solar Power’s customers use cash or loans and only 4 percent use leases.”
“We offer clients all financing options, we see clients opting for a solar loan over the solar lease since they’re able to get a great interest rate, can receive a 30 percent federal tax credit and will own the system in 12 years. If someone pays taxes, the loan is much more attractive than a solar lease since Uncle Sam covers about a third of the system,” Ms Kelly said in emails.
“We’ve seen a definite increase in ownership over the last two years. Once customers decide on ownership, the question is then on how they’re going to finance. There are different financing options available. Typically, they are offered through ‘solar-specific’ financing companies who focus on solar and have programs specific to the intricacies of solar installations. Another increasingly popular financing option is the use of local credit unions who have started to offer energy efficient loan programs,” said Ian Lochore, Director of Residential Sales, Baker Electric Solar, in an email.
Work Through PACE
He added, “PACE is another energy efficient loan that allows financing through homeowners’ property taxes. It’s been growing quickly over the last two years, but we typically do not present PACE as our first option as we do not believe it is always in the best interest of the homeowner. Either way, we let the homeowner make the decision – we simply provide guidance and help the customer choose the best option for them.”
“PACE is becoming more popular as many more jurisdictions now offer it, (but) most of our clients pay cash or use a 12-year loan,” added Ms Kelly.
A “significant number” of the 9,000 solar applications the county expects to issue this year are PACE related.
County Supervisor Dianne Jacob has been a champion of the PACE program since it first appeared in 2008. A spokesperson from her office explained in an email that, while it may not make the most sense for all, this program can open the door to those who might otherwise be unable to tap into renewable energy technology. San Diego finally opened the door to residential PACE programs in 2014. Since then, three companies have been operating within the county.
- 20,290 applications have been approved through the HERO PACE program.
- 4,986 were approved for Ygrene PACE
- 2,501 were approved for California First
It would appear that roughly half of these projects were completed by the end of June. A spokesperson for HERO PACE stated, “8,356 homes have been improved with $225 million in HERO financing.” In addition, HERO financed projects for “2,748 homes in the city of San Diego” that are not in the county’s tally, according to an email from a spokesperson for the HERO PACE program.
As PACE is also used for energy- and water-efficiency renovations, the portion of those homes that received solar panels is unknown.
PACE programs presumably financed less than 10% of the 93,076 rooftop solar installations within San Diego Gas & Electric’s territory (which includes the city & county).
Mauzy Heating, Air & Solar obtains about 30% to 40% of its work through the HERO Program.
“We’ve been a HERO Registered Contractor from the day that they came in to San Diego and it opened up in San Diego County and being a HERO Registered Contractor is amazing. To be able to provide the level of service that we do and now that level of service is affordable to a lot more customers than it was before. You know before our level of service was not as affordable by some people but with the program it’s allowed us to bring that level of service to people with a little bit smaller budget or that need to a little bit of time to pay for the type of installation that we’re going to do,” said Matt Mauzy, the company President.
Photo Credits: Installation Photo — Courtesy Renovate America, which operates HERO PACE; video courtesy Sullivan Solar Power; video courtesy Baker Solar Electric; Installation photo courtesy Sullivan Solar Power; Installation photo courtesy Renovate America/Mauzy Solar; Video courtesy Mauzy Solar/Renovate America
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