UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Satisfaction among renewable energy system owners


UNC Kenan-FlaglerA new report produced by the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association and the Center for Sustainable Enterprise at UNC Kenan-Flagler sheds light on the most significant financial, personal and policy factors driving growth in the purchase of solar photovoltaic (PV) and geothermal systems in North Carolina.

The two organizations surveyed solar PV and geothermal system owners to assess the motivations behind their decisions to install a system in their home or business and challenges faced in the process.

Respondents cited the availability of tax credits, concern over the cost of electricity and a desire to “do the right thing” as some of their most important motivations for installing their clean energy systems.

The significance of tax credits and the high average household incomes of system owners suggest that legal limitations on retail financing options may be hindering less affluent N.C. households from being able to access the solar PV market due to the financial barrier posed by upfront capital costs.

“The report clearly validates the benefits of clean energy systems,” said Ivan Urlaub, NCSEA executive director. “But beyond pointing out the high satisfaction and cost savings enjoyed by renewable energy system owners, it also suggests through its findings that policy can play an important role in further allowing the market to make these systems more financially accessible to middle and lower income consumers.”

Researchers surveyed over 1,300 solar PV owners and more than 1,000 geothermal system owners. Survey results revealed that solar PV system owners were more likely than geothermal system owners to have already engaged in energy-saving behaviors before installing their system. The data suggest that the moment of installation of a renewable energy system and immediately thereafter are critical windows to increase utilization of other energy efficient technologies. Applying this finding could pave the way for greater reduction of energy consumption and help companies to capitalize on growth opportunities in the energy efficiency market.

"The UNC Kenan-Flagler Center for Sustainable Enterprise is excited to partner with NCSEA on this report,” said Carol Hee, CSE director. “It highlights our state's success with the rapid growth of solar PV and geothermal energy systems and also points out areas for improvement to ensure that more homeowners and small business owners can save money with these technologies."