Clean Energy Financing Forum
October 28, 2014
by Kat Friedrich
How can programs motivate homeowners to make their homes energy-efficient before installing solar panels? And how can incentives support a whole-house retrofit approach that will optimize energy savings and prevent solar systems from being oversized?
California, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Austin Energy have been grappling with this challenge for years. Their experiences show well-designed incentives may drive the joint adoption of solar power and energy efficiency. Simply introducing energy efficiency requirements into the solar installation process may not be successful without adding financial motivation.
When homeowners want to install solar systems, why don’t they pay attention to energy efficiency? Renewable energy has an appeal to residential customers that energy efficiency may not possess.
“Efficiency is like broccoli,” wrote Bill Schutten and Kathy Kuntz in a paper for the 2010 American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Summer Study. “Despite President Obama’s statements to the contrary, energy efficiency is not sexy.”
“The market for whole-house energy efficiency upgrades is developing slowly,” said Ria Langheim, research analyst at the Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego. “It doesn’t have the traction that solar had.”
Energy efficiency upgrades may be less trendy than solar power, but they can deliver substantial financial benefits to both contractors and homeowners. They also often have a more rapid payback than solar installations provide.