Solar Programs 2.0: A Marketplace Approach (White Paper)
Solar energy adoption has been taking off in the US, largely driven by a decline in installed system prices and the rise of new financing options.
Contributing to this growth is a chorus of organizations that have been actively encouraging consumers to go solar. These organizations include environmental nonprofits, as one might expect, but also corporations, local governments and even utilities. These solar promotions have often focused on selecting a single installation company, negotiating a group rate and letting these companies promote their service to members, residents and customers. Although these so-called group-purchasing programs have been around for several years, many organizations are not yet aware of a new approach to solar program management that leverages the benefits of online comparison-shopping through a solar marketplace.
What is a solar marketplace?
A solar marketplace is a web platform that connects consumers with a network of pre-screened solar installers who submit online quotes for each property. Instead of getting just one quote from a single installer, consumers get the benefit of receiving quotes from a variety of providers. These quotes include equipment, installer, and financing (e.g. loans and leases). EnergySage is the largest solar marketplace and has a long history of working with organizations to promote solar.
Benefits of a solar marketplace
Solar marketplace programs avoid the administrative burden of developing RFPs, vetting and selecting installer proposals, and managing installers throughout the program. Rather, the marketplace provides high quality, vetted installers and manages these providers to ensure a great customer experience. This offers huge time and resource savings that can be invested in promoting the program to the community and building additional initiatives.
Consumer protection and advocacy
An online marketplace like EnergySage allows consumers to control their shopping experience. They are not required to share their email or phone number with installers. In addition, consumers are able to compare quotes from a range of providers to make sure that they are getting a good deal for their solar system. In the traditional single installer program, the “discount” offered may be at or above the real market price, so shopping around is very important.
More options to choose from
Installers tend to prefer certain products and as a result single installer programs can be limiting for consumers interested in options. Having the equipment and financing products from a few installers helps consumers to better understand their options to determine what will work best for them, and help them find a solar option that suits their needs. As consumers become more aware of solar options, many develop preferences like aesthetics, efficiency, or country of manufacture.
Faster time to installation
When a single installer is backlogged with installation work, this leads to painful delays in getting the systems up and running. Once a customer has decided to go solar, they want their system to be up and running yesterday! With a marketplace solution, the installer work is spread over several participating providers, so consumers can get their installer completed promptly and can start enjoying the savings.
Improved chances of going solar
When a single installer is overwhelmed with service requests, they tend to set a higher bar for what constitutes a suitable property for solar. This sometimes results in certain consumers being overlooked by an installer. When several installers are involved, the chances are greater that a customer can find an installer who sees their solar potential.
Manageable solar industry growth
When programs include only one larger installer who gets all of the business, there are negative economic outcomes for the industry. Sharing the consumer demand amongst multiple local installers boosts growth for smaller firms as well and avoids providers staffing up and shedding labor after the program. A marketplace approach allows communities to include all qualified providers so that consumers have choice and the industry can grow naturally without the impacts from picking winners and fixing prices.
The traditional solar program approach is quickly becoming outdated as the means of encouraging solar adoption in a community.
Companies like EnergySage are leading the way in efficiently driving solar adoption, while also placing a premium on consumer protection and choice.
|Traditional Solar Program||Solar Program 2.0|
|Requires a request for proposal (RFP) for installer selection|
|Community outreach efforts to educate and inspire around solar adoption|
|Participants have the opportunity to engage multiple high quality installers of all sizes, local and national|
|Each participant has multiple competitive solar quotes to review|
|Participants have access to online quote analysis tools|
|Participants have access to a large range of options to choose from (such as equipment & financing options)|
|Participants enjoy a simplified customer decision-making process|
|Significantly reduced pricing and increased consumer confidence about getting a good deal|
EnergySage runs the largest and only vendor-neutral online solar marketplace. Developed in 2012 with funding from the US Department of Energy, EnergySage is dedicated to information, transparency and choice. Our suite of online tools and resources help consumers research and shop for solar.
EnergySage is unique in the industry for putting the customer first. This is demonstrated by our:
- Comprehensive suite of solar information and self-evaluative resources
- Team of unbiased Solar Advisors available by phone, email and live chat
- One-of-a-kind quote comparison display, offering complete transparency
EnergySage works with over 85 leading organizations, including:
- Municipalities like the City of Cambridge, MA and state agencies like the Connecticut Green Bank
- Non-profits like Clean Water Action and Green America
- Electric and gas utility companies like National Grid and NYSEG
- Corporations like Staples and Kaiser Permanente
EnergySage partners see some of the highest engagement rates in the solar industry!
Solar solutions range from using solar educational resources to inform their community about solar, to customized community engagement programs that leverage a suite of templates and best practices.
“EnergySage made it easy for residents of Melrose to go solar. We couldn’t have done it without them!”
Martha Grover, Energy Efficiency Manager
Town of Melrose, MA
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