Solar Tribune

Solar leasing made up 75% of CA installations in 2012


A new report from the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) found that over 75 percent of solar panel systems installed in California last year were leased.

The report, “Improving Solar Policy: Lessons from the solar leasing boom in California,” examines the growth of solar PV in that state, finding that people go solar mainly to save money on power bills.

According to CPI’s analysis, leased systems don’t pose a cost to taxpayers across the country because the cost of PV systems has declined and so have federal government incentives. Specifically, the decline of the California Solar Incentive helped bring down prices for rooftop solar, and thus a drop in the cost of the incentive scheme to taxpayers.

Credit: CPI

Credit: CPI

CPI also found that declining government incentives – which previously encouraged homeowners to buy systems – have increased demand for leasing programs.

Some argue that government incentives should be reduced because such programs essentially mean that all state or federal taxpayers are subsidising the cost for those who do choose to go solar. And a few years ago, incentivizing solar leasing actually cost taxpayers more than purchased systems.

But CPI finds that to no longer be the case, stating that “[l]easing companies make it easier for many customers to realize the benefits of rooftop solar,” but not all states allow leasing.

The think-tank recommends leasing incentive programs that draw down over time, but concludes that solar leasing is just one part of the energy mix.

“Solar leasing has filled and will continue to fill a gap — converting long-term energy savings from a relatively large investment into a product that provides immediate financial benefits,” says the report.

“However, leasing is likely not the only way in which business and/or policy innovation can make it easier for consumers to benefit from renewable generation.”


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