With dropping solar equipment costs, solar arrays are becoming much more affordable for residential customers. As a result, more customers are opting to own their systems through cash or loans rather than through leasing or PPAs.
“For some customers, the monthly payment on a loan to own the system is about the same as what they’re paying on their energy bill, which is leading to a growth in solar loans,” said Mary Rottman, former president of the Solar Energy Finance Association, which has now merged with SEIA. “Customers are increasingly wanting to own their system and feel they’re getting 100% of the ITC benefits and the energy produced.”
In fact, more than half of U.S. residential solar capacity installed this year is expected to be purchased through customer ownership, according to GTM Research’s U.S. Residential Solar Financing 2016-2021 report.
Much of this comes from larger installers such as SolarCity and Sunrun moving toward ownership financing options, especially in California.
More loans being offered means additional competition, as more financing companies enter the market. In its Solar Marketplace Intel Report, EnergySage said that in 2015, more than half of the loans installer quoted on its marketplace came from just two loan providers. But as more financing companies entered the market in 2016, the two dominating providers only accounted for 17%.
To cater to changing customer preferences, installers are offering more financing options. EnergySage reported that the number of installers using three or more financing products in their quotes on the EnergySage marketplace grew from about 10% in the first half of 2016, to more than 37% in the second.
However, because the market has changed so quickly, installers will continue to play catchup to meet customer demand for ownership options.