Through my organization's work across the nation, I have seen firsthand the effectiveness of community organization around solar power. Homeowners in towns like Casa Grande and Sun City West – both of which are participating in the Arizona Solar Challenge, a call to install solar on 5 percent of owner-occupied homes by 2015 – are eager to adopt this cost-saving technology. As one Arizonan told us, "If you have $14,000 sitting in a CD, it generates a return of only 0.5 percent annually. The immediate return on a solar investment generates $60 to $70 each month." As this customer told us, it's a "no-brainer."
But without national policies that benefit these solar consumers, their enthusiasm may be dampened. Consumer adoption happens fastest when federal, state and local policies remove barriers and allow the marketplace to thrive. A recent solar industry report said obstacles to acquiring local permits can add up to $2,500 to the cost of a typical residential solar installation. Add that to a host of other marketing barriers – conflicting information, lack of a trusted solar brand, confusion over rebate and tax incentive eligibility – and we are making it difficult for willing consumers to enjoy an economically beneficial product.
Even in the midst of the worst economy in a generation, the solar industry is poised to take off. The more we can lower the cost of solar, the more people will move to install. That means more manufacturing and installation jobs for Americans. If Congress is serious about jobs, they’ll fast track this legislation.
Brian F. Keane is president of SmartPower, a non-profit marketing organization dedicated to promoting clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency to American consumers.