A new report on residential solar installations in California's rooftop solar market indicates a trend toward greater adoption by middle-class households.
The trend, seen over the course of eight years, aligns with a steady decline in the cost of solar power and in the increase of financing options.
The study, conducted by Kevala Analytics, analyzed California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) solar interconnection data for 386,000 net-metered solar systems installed from 2008 through this year. It concluded that as solar deployment has expanded statewide, an increasing percentage of installations are benefiting low- and middle-income median ZIP codes. There was a corresponding decrease in the percentage of installations in upper-income ZIP codes.
For example, in Fresno County, historically a leader in solar deployment per capita, ZIP codes with median incomes of $40,000 to $55,000 consistently represent roughly half of solar installations. Deployment of solar in the lowest-income group – below $40,000 – now surpasses the two highest income brackets in the county.
The report indicates that demand for rooftop solar is strongest in demographics where saving between 10% and 20% in electricity costs is meaningful enough to drive switching to solar. The report was conducted as the CPUC deliberates whether to adopt changes to net metering proposed by utility companies that could make solar more expensive in the coming year.
‘Middle-class consumers are seeking to generate their own power as part of a tangible solution to rising electricity costs,’ says Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association. ‘Our goal is to make solar power as commonplace and accessible as cell phones. We aren't there yet, but the trend is heading in the right direction so long as policymakers maintain current pro-consumer policies, such as net metering and the federal tax credits.’