Rooftop Solar Adoption in Emerging Residential Markets

Rooftop Solar Adoption

Author:  Hernandez, Mari

Organization:  Center for American Progress

Report Date: 2014

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Summary: 

This report examines the income level of rooftop solar adopters in Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. The author finds that emerging solar markets in Massachusetts and New York closely resemble her previous analysis where the largest adopters are middle class households. The majority of installations in Maryland occur in higher income households, however, and the number of middle class households adopting solar is significantly less than both Massachusetts and New York. The author argues that policy is in large part responsible for developing robust solar markets; net metering, tax incentives, and programs designed to help low-income households will expand access to solar energy; and  California programs and policies should be used as a model for scaling solar. 

Key Take-Aways: 

  • In established solar market states like California, Arizona, and New Jersey and in emerging  markets in New York and Massachusetts, the vast majority of solar installations occur in neighborhoods with household income ranging from $40,000-$90,000.
  • In Maryland, an emerging solar market, households with income above $90,000 have the highest number of solar installations. Maryland middle class households are adopting solar at a significantly lower rate than Massachusetts and New York.
  • From 2012 to 2013, Massachusetts and Maryland had the highest percentage increase in residential installations coming from households with incomes ranging from $40,000-$50,000. 
  • The distribution of solar installations closely follows the population distribution in Massachusetts, but the distribution of solar installations in New York is more heavily concentrated in middle incomes. The distribution of solar installations in Maryland is most heavily concentrated in the higher income bracket. 
  • California programs and policies have increased solar adoption rates and have made it easier for middle and lower income households to adopt solar. The California Solar Initiative (CSI) and Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) have been very successful.  
  • Enacting policies that enable net metering, green banks, property assessed Clean Energy (PACE), solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), rebates, and other tax exemptions and exceptions are effective ways for increasing solar adoption across income levels. 

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