The California solar homeowners I work with are acting pretty “weird” compared to the rest of America. This summer when the rest of America will keep their thermostats set at higher-than-desired levels to avoid the dreaded high monthly electric bill, the solar customers I know will be running their homes at a pleasant 72 degrees with no fear of receiving a huge electric utility bill.
In fact, many of them love solar electricity so much they are pulling out their gas appliances and re-engineering their homes to be totally electric. These homeowners are really out of step with their fellow Americans in terms of leasing electric cars that they fuel “for free” from their solar systems. Is this the real future for Earth Day or just more California weirdness?
This type of public policy questioning took place in California over the last decade. The resulting change in public policy has enabled California homeowners and businesses to easily and economically net meter their solar power against their utility bill. California’s public policy also allows third-party financing of solar systems. This policy has sparked highly competitive lease and power purchase offers to homeowners with zero down for the installations of a system, plus a guarantee that the homeowner's monthly solar bill will be lower than their historical monthly electric utility bill.
California homeowners that buy their solar system, rather than financing through a lease or power purchase agreement, can use the Federal Investment Tax Credit to cut their incomes taxes (utilities are afforded these same tax credits). The tax credit plus the cost savings of the solar system combine to achieve solar prices of 10 cents or less price per kilowatt-hour levelized over 20 years. Financial research suggests that a homeowner investing in a solar system will earn more on their solar system than if they invested their money in the S&P500!
Driven by solar’s lower prices, the marketing of solar in California is now definitely getting weird. TV advertisements by many California solar companies look and sound like a Tea Party convention, with speakers rallying a crowd of people to gain financial freedom from high utility rates. Solar companies are also using peer marketing strategies. One solar company’s TV ads show neighborhood kids playing at the solar-powered home because the air conditioning is running on a hot day. The latent marketing message is the pride gained by the solar-powered mom that her children are now more popular. Get ready America! When solar prices in your state drop below your electric utility’s retail prices, you will be getting this “weird” solar marketing too.
The solar industry is adding jobs at a time of massive layoffs in the fossil fuel industry. The solar industry now employees almost twice as many people as the coal-mining industry. Since 2014, the solar industry has added twice as many jobs than the oil and natural gas pipeline industry.
Importantly, solar jobs are local jobs. A worker can get a job working in the solar industry near where they live rather than having to uproot their life to work in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota or a deep-sea oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
Image credit: Flickr/Patrick Strandberg
Bill Roth is a cleantech business pioneer having led teams that developed the first hydrogen fueled Prius and a utility scale, non-thermal solar power plant. Using his CEO and senior officer experiences, Roth has coached hundreds of CEOs and business owners on how to develop and implement projects that win customers and cut costs while reducing environmental impacts. As a professional economist, Roth has written numerous books including his best selling The Secret Green Sauce (available on Amazon) that profiles proven sustainable best practices in pricing, marketing and operations. His most recent book, The Boomer Generation Diet (available on Amazon) profiles his humorous personal story on how he used sustainable best practices to lose 40 pounds and still enjoy Happy Hour!