EnergySage, an online comparison-shopping marketplace for solar, has released the results of its second annual Solar Installer Survey. Conducted between Nov. 9 and Dec. 31, 2016, the survey polled more than 360 local, regional, and national residential and commercial solar installers across 42 states and the District of Columbia.
Among the key findings, the report says solar installer confidence in the industry was up in 2016 despite some headwinds, including sales challenges. Although confidence varied across leading state markets, the nationwide average revealed that confidence increased among more solar installers (47%) than it decreased (29%), as compared to the previous year.
According to the report, over half of solar companies surveyed (53%) indicated that their largest obstacle in closing sales is the confusion created by their competitors and its impact on consumer confidence overall. Similarly, the survey reflects an increasing trend noted in the previous report: Customer acquisition has become more challenging due to increased competition and consumers’ reviewing more quotes before buying.
“Looking back, 2016 was a year of ups and downs for solar,” says Vikram Aggarwal, CEO and founder of EnergySage in a press release. “Despite the welcomed extension of the investment tax credit and the reaching of 1 million [solar installations nationwide], some of the industry’s largest companies struggled to stay afloat and our political climate became more uncertain. Looking into 2017, we encourage all solar installers to collaborate more and seek out new ways to improve consumer confidence. As the expression goes, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.'”
More key insights from the Solar Installer Survey include the following:
Competition heats up: Installers report that competition in the industry continues to build. Over 50% of installers said their customers see three or more quotes before making a decision and also reported that customer acquisition became harder in 2016 as compared to 2015.
Batteries charge ahead: Energy storage is the No. 1 new offering planned for 2017. While three out of five solar installers report offering battery installs today, another 16% plan to offer it in the coming year. The report says no other new product or service was nearly as popular among the survey participants.
Ownership reigns: Seventy-four percent of installers surveyed said that they do not use leases or power purchase agreements, which is up significantly from 50% in the previous year’s report. Although ownership dominates, the report notes, no available financing options scored well in installer satisfaction ratings.
“There has never been a better time to work in the solar industry, and that’s reflected in the findings in this report,” says Justin Baca, vice president of markets and research for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “As the solar industry continues to grow in this competitive marketplace, solar companies are looking for ways to fine-tune their businesses to offer customers the best value, while still improving their margins.”
“This is an important study for the industry, and we are excited that EnergySage is asking the right questions,” adds Raghu Belur, co-founder and vice president of products and strategic initiatives at solar technology provider Enphase Energy. “Often, little information is available about these local, privately held companies that are driving so much of the growth of residential solar. This report reveals what it’s like to be a solar installer in the U.S. and what their needs are, which helps us to figure out the best ways to support them through our own unique products and services.”
The 2016 Solar Installer Survey report is available for free download here.
Figure courtesy of EnergySage