Solar Tribune

Study: middle class leading solar revolution


A new study from the Center for American Progress has busted the myth that solar is for the rich, finding that the middle class is the biggest adopter of the technology.

The study, Solar Power to the People: The Rise of Rooftop Solar Among the Middle Class, looked at utility data from the three biggest markets for solar in the U.S. – California, New Jersey and Arizona.

And the findings are surprising: over 60% of solar installations are happening in zip codes with median incomes of $40,000 to $90,000 per year.

The report also found that areas with median incomes of $40,000 to $90,000 are also seeing the most growth in adoption of home solar.

The findings are important in the current debates about net metering, Center for American Progress Research Associate Mari Hernandez writes. Utilities across the country are attempting to limit implementation of the scheme which allows solar users to sell back any excess electricity generated by their PV panels back to the grid.

Credit: Center for American Progress

Credit: Center for American Progress

Because of utilities’ size and pricing models, net metering can make purchasing electricity from the grid more expensive – providing an incentive to go solar while also taking customers away from utilities.

According to Hernandez, utilities have based their stand against net metering on the argument that the program forces lower income earners to subsidize the rich: only wealthy people can afford to install home solar panels, but net metering makes grid electricity more expensive for those who can’t afford to go solar.

“Middle-class homeowners are leading the rooftop solar revolution,” writes Hernandez. “This finding will have far-reaching implications as utilities across the country consider revising their solar programs and rate structures, which benefit lower- and middle-class people—who are increasingly installing solar—and not just wealthier people.”

“Regulators and policymakers should consider how net metering and other solar policies support the growth of rooftop solar among middle-class homeowners and how they can continue to expand the use of a clean, renewable energy resource,” she concludes.

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