Survey: How Do U.S. Installers Plan To Handle New Solar Tariff Costs?


EnergySage and the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) have released the results of the third annual Solar Installer Survey, showing that the new solar tariff may have less of an impact on installers than expected.

According to EnergySage and NABCEP, the 2017 report – which covers the period of January 2017 to January 2018 – captures key observations about the U.S. solar industry from local, regional and national solar installers. Nearly 600 residential and commercial installers across the country participated in the survey, which was fielded and authored by EnergySage in partnership with NABCEP.

Nearly half of all respondents stated they are more confident in the solar industry now than in prior years. Confidence rose in key states such as Massachusetts, North Carolina and Washington; however, customer acquisition challenges and changing regulations in the country’s largest solar market, California, resulted in a 27% drop in installer confidence. Additionally, installers called for better customer service and support from manufacturers, financiers and software providers as they try to win more business in an increasingly competitive solar market, the survey says.

Furthermore, the survey shows that demand for solar-plus-storage has surged. Nearly one in three solar shoppers is also interested in a home battery, according to respondents. Close rates for customers who receive quotes for solar-plus-storage are nearly 50% in some markets, the report says.

Notably, according to the results, the recently announced 30% tariff on imported solar cells and panels may have less of an impact on residential solar than initially expected. Two-thirds of solar installers said they plan to absorb some or all of the cost of the tariff, rather than pass those costs along to the consumer.

However, one-third of respondents said they plan to pass the full tariff cost to the consumer. The report notes that the “extent to which these price increases will impact installers’ ability to win customers remains to be seen.”

Lastly, the survey finds that customer acquisition remains difficult. In total, 37% of respondents stated that customer acquisition was harder in 2017 compared with 2016 and that confusion created by competitors is still their No. 1 challenge. Additionally, installers are prioritizing growth in market share over margins.

“For the second year in a row, confidence in the solar industry among installers is on the rise with a meaningful jump in 2017,” says Vikram Aggarwal, CEO and founder of EnergySage. “From speaking with our installers across the country, we believe there are several reasons for continued optimism. Consumer interest in solar energy and home energy storage has never been higher. Given that prices remain competitive and the solar tariff is expected to only have a limited short-term impact, solar installers have much to look forward to in 2018 and beyond.”

The survey – conducted between Dec. 14, 2017, and Jan. 13, 2018 – was fielded to EnergySage’s and NABCEP’s networks. Several manufacturers, distributors and industry associations sent the survey to their installers, as well. In total, 587 solar installers across 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico participated.

The latest report can be downloaded for free here. All solar installers who download the survey will be invited to participate and have their voices heard in the 2018 edition. Last year’s survey for 2016 can be read here.

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