Solar Adoption and Energy Efficiency Actions

Understanding homeowner perspectives

We're interested in better understanding the energy efficiency actions of homeowners who install rooftop solar electric systems and their perspectives on performing home energy upgrades. Insights into the connection between solar adoption and energy upgrades could help policymakers and regulators in designing future residential energy programs.

In a recent study, CSE surveyed 2,350 solar homeowners in the SDG&E territory who participated in the California Solar Initiative program. While most respondents indicated saving money on electricity costs as the most important reason for going solar (74%) and for energy efficiency upgrades (71%), nuances in motivations across demographic groups reveals some distinct differences on energy views.

While some 87% of survey participants had engaged in energy efficiency, the majority only took basic actions prior to solar installation, such as installing low-energy lighting and appliances.

Following the market segmentation descriptions developed by Opinion Dynamics Corp. for the California Public Utilities Commission, test groups were divided into "leading achievers" and "practical spenders," based largely on household income, education and other demographics.

The results showed leading achievers as more motivated to install energy efficiency because of environmental concerns and the desire to reduce reliance on fossil-fueled energy. They also were more likely to see energy efficiency upgrades as a prerequisite to solar to reduce consumption and minimize PV system size.

Practical spenders linked energy efficiency to ongoing home maintenance and as an investment that increased their property value with the added benefits of comfortable indoor temperatures and improved air quality.

Overall, the study indicates that solar adopters do not fully understand the synergies between solar and energy efficiency and are missing significant opportunities for cost and energy savings by not taking greater energy efficiency measures before the installation of solar.

We conclude that consideration be given to integrating solar incentives into energy efficiency programs and framing solar as a component of a comprehensive home energy upgrade. This reframing may help potential solar customers to explore the full range of energy efficiency options and encourage contractors to offer both energy efficiency and solar installation services.

If you are interested in more details, the full report, Energy Efficiency Motivations and Actions of California Solar Homeowners, is available online.