The Solar + Storage Customer Research was conducted by ILLUME and represents the findings from six interviews with solar trade ally contractors and five focus groups with a total of 27 participants. The focus groups comprised a mix of residential participants living both inside and outside of Portland in three segments: Those looking into solar, those with solar panels installed but not with storage, and those with both solar and storage systems installed.
The research provides Energy Trust with valuable insights into the market drivers and existing barriers for customers considering solar + storage systems as well as for solar trade ally contractors offering these systems.
Solar + storage systems can provide customers with more benefits than solar alone. They can offer persistent bill savings due to on-site solar generation and also provide resilience for power-essential loads in a home, such as keeping food cold, cell phones charged and lights on during a power outage. In addition to those direct customer benefits, solar + storage systems can provide additional benefits to the utility grid. Some of the systems being installed now will be able to take advantage of future utility programs focused on demand response or other ancillary services.
Key findings from the customer research include:
Upfront costs are a barrier. While the decision to install solar or solar + storage is not primarily financial, upfront costs can be a barrier – especially for low- to moderate-income customers. Additionally, without a time-of-use or similar rate structure allowing battery storage to provide an ongoing value stream used to decrease customers’ monthly energy bills, there is no opportunity for battery storage to provide a payback for customers.
“Energy resilience” is not commonly understood. Resilience was frequently mentioned in the literature review and in interviews with Solar trade allies. However, customers in the focus groups didn’t mention the concept by name. Instead, they indicated a desire to have more control over their energy and some customers liked the idea of backup power for critical services such as well pumps.
More information is needed. Customers expressed confusion about how solar + storage systems operate and what they can and cannot power during an outage. Customers also had questions about the environmental impact of battery storage. Solar trade allies indicated that they do not bring up storage unless asked and sometimes steer customers away from the technology.
Solar can promote energy awareness. Customers indicated that installing solar often creates a “positive feedback loop,” spurring greater awareness of their energy use. Several customers reported trying to use energy during off-peak hours more often, an interest in adding storage if they hadn’t already and/or switching to electric vehicles.
In 2020, the solar program will undertake the following strategies and initiatives to address market barriers and further support market drivers for increasing adoption of solar + storage:
- Provide technical and sales training to solar trade ally contractors about solar + storage system capabilities, design and installation so they can more effectively communicate the value to customers.
- Provide educational workshops for customers on the current technology and any tax credits, state rebates or incentives available to decrease their upfront costs.
- Raise customer awareness of solar + storage technology and connect customers with solar trade allies who can provide custom quotes.
You can find the entire report on the Energy Trust website.