NewEnergyNews: MONDAY’S STUDY: Who Buys Rooftop Solar?

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    Monday, March 16, 2020

    MONDAY’S STUDY: Who Buys Rooftop Solar?

    Income Trends among U.S. Residential Rooftop Solar Adopters

    Galen Barbose, Sydney Forrester, Naïm Darghouth, and Ben Hoen, February 2020 (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

    Overview

    A new Berkeley Lab annual report dedicated to describing income and other demographic trends of residential solar adopters

    • Pairs Berkeley Lab’s Tracking the Sun dataset and other sources of PV addresses with householdlevel income data

    • Focuses on residential rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, with an emphasis on 2018 installations

    • This edition focuses primarily on income, though later editions may include trends related to other demographic attributes

    • Analysis is descriptive in nature: intended to track basic trends and to serve as a foundational resource for further analyses and support for market participants

    • Report is published in slide deck form with accompanying online data visualizations that allow users to further explore the data (see solardemographics.lbl.gov)

    Key Findings

    Income distribution of 2018 residential solar adopters:

    •15% have household incomes

    • 50% of 2018 solar adopters are below the corresponding OO-HH median income

    • Low-to-moderate income households: 6% of 2018 solar adopters have incomes…

    Solar-Adopter Household Income Distributions

    • Solar adopters span all income ranges

    • Distribution peaks between $50-100k, but has a long upper tail

    • Among 2018 solar adopters:  15% have household (HH) incomes

    Income Distribution of Solar Adopters vs. U.S. Population

    • Comparing to Census data requires that we consolidate the income bins, as shown here

    • Solar-adopter incomes skew high relative to all U.S. households  Income disparities are most pronounced at the low and high ends  Whereas HHs with incomes in the $50-100k range are proportionately represented

    • Skew is less pronounced if comparing to just owner-occupied households (OO-HHs)  Solar adoption occurs primarily among singlefamily owner-occupied homes (due to ownercontrol of rooftop, owner/tenant split incentive)  Illustrates how home-ownership can be a key driver for income disparities between solar adopters and the broader population…

    Solar-Adopter Income Trends over Time

    • Solar adoption has been slowly migrating toward lower incomes (at least since 2010*)  Sample share of HHs with incomes…

    Solar-Adopter Income Distributions Across States

    • Solar-adopter income distributions vary across states, but in general, roughly:  30-40%* of 2018 solar adopters have HH incomes in the $50-100k range  10-20% have incomes ≥$200k  10-25% have incomes…

    Solar-Adopter Credit Scores over Time

    • Credit scores are often a key determinant to a HH’s ability to obtain solar financing

    • The share of adopters with lower credit scores has grown over time, based on block-level medians (see figure notes)

    • That said, solar adopters generally have high credit scores  Almost 90% of 2018 solar adopters have either Prime or Super-Prime credit scores  This distribution can vary across states (see appendix slide 43); Louisiana has a particularly large share of low credit-score solar adopters

    • Compared to the broader population, solar adopters credit scores skew high  Among 2018 solar adopters, 35% had credit scores below their respective state median…

    Conclusions

    • Solar adopters span all income ranges, and include LMI households in all states

    • Solar-adopter incomes skew high relative to the broader population, though less so when compared to just owner-occupied households, and less so when compared on a more localized basis

    • Solar adopters also skew high in terms of other financial measures—namely, home value and credit score

    • Income and other disparities between solar adopters and the broader population have been diminishing gradually over time, reflecting both a broadening and a deepening of U.S. solar markets

    • The degree of disparity varies significantly across states and local markets, and some markets exhibit income parity between solar adopters and the broader population

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