Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Leon Kaye headshot

SolarCity Partners with Airbnb to Offer Solar Power Rebates

By Leon Kaye

Airbnb, along with other sharing economy companies, has long touted their sustainability street cred. Now, the short-term lodging service is going a step further by partnering with SolarCity.

The San Mateo-based clean power provider, which recently merged with Tesla Motors, is offering Airbnb hosts up to $1,000 in cash for installing solar power systems on their rooftops. In addition, Airbnb hosts who are also SolarCity customers will score a $100 Airbnb booking credit.

So, will Airbnb hosts jump at the offer? As Fortune noted on Tuesday, the average cost of installing a solar power system is anywhere from $25,000 to $35,000, so that 1K check may not get many homeowners to budge. Of course, depending on the host’s location, tax incentives can reduce that total. And SolarCity is among the many solar power installers that provide monthly payment options. For those who rely significantly on Airbnb income, but find that other financial benefits are lacking, receiving a thousand bucks in the mail could be enough of an incentive.

Moreover, Airbnb and SolarCity are clearly appealing to millennials by talking up the environmental benefits of investing in residential solar. SolarCity claims the average rooftop solar power system can prevent the emissions of 150 metric tons of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. That amount, SolarCity insists, is equivalent to taking 125 road trips from New York to San Francisco (363,375 miles) or leaving 75 metric tons (166,000 pounds) of coal in the ground.

Meanwhile, Airbnb claims 13 million homes and 36 million bedrooms sit empty on any given night. The company has long made the case that utilizing those empty spaces is both environmentally responsible and an economic no-brainer.

Two years ago, Airbnb commissioned the research firm Cleantech Group to measure the environmental benefits of home sharing. The results were all over the map, from the estimate that travelers from Canada and the U.S. who used Airbnb conserve the equivalent of 270 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water, to the conclusion that room-sharing displaced the emissions of 33,000 cars from North American roads. Airbnb claimed that a survey of its hosts in Europe resulted in even more impressive metrics.

While this promotion is clearly targeted to hosts, Airbnb guests can also sign up. Interested consumers simply enter a code generated by Airbnb in order to start the process with SolarCity.

For Airbnb, this program with SolarCity is another opportunity to repair its reputation, which has been battered over the past year. The company found itself the target of protests over proven allegations of racial discrimination by its hosts. And it hired big D.C. names such as Eric Holder and Chris Lehane in an attempt to rehabilitate its image. In addition, the company’s valuation has earned it the unflattering moniker of a tech “unicorn,” which critics say symbolizes what is wrong with the investment community and the tech sector in general.

Hence this clean energy program can help Airbnb renew its focus on the sharing economy’s core values, starting with sustainable consumption – a much more constructive narrative for the company than its more recent role as the poster child of what is wrong with Silicon Valley.

Image credit: SolarCity

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye