Renewable energy system owners enjoy high satisfaction, finds report

A report published by the NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA)and the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Center for Sustainable Enterprise has revealed a high level of satisfaction among renewable energy system owners in the U.S. state.

The report analyzed the growth of the PV and geothermal industries in North Carolina, asking system owners of the two technologies – both residential and commercial – what it was that motivated them to pursue a cleaner energy path, the challenges they faced, and any apparent rewards they have gleaned.

The results were interesting, if not totally surprising. Tax incentives for going green helped minimize many respondents’ fears of installation costs, and also proved to offset continuing concerns about the rise in electricity bills. The desire to do the right thing has been affirmed by the ease in which solar PV installations, for example, can be installed.

However, most of the system owners surveyed had relatively high average incomes, which suggests that only those households and business with the financial means to benefit from tax credits, cheaper bills and a serene sense of following a green path are currently able to do so.

Sound policy at a state-level could, the report suggests, play an important role in making the renewable energy market more accessible to middle and lower income consumers, said NCSEA executive director, Ivan Urlaub.

The study polled more than 1,300 solar PV owners, and some 1,000 geothermal system owners for their thoughts. The overriding response was that both installations provided the system owner with a sense of satisfaction, also revealing that PV consumers were more likely to have engaged in eco-friendly behaviors prior to installing their system. Both types of system owner are, the study suggests, more likely to utilize energy efficient technologies, adding that the moment of installation and immediate aftermath is when system owners are more eco-conscious.

"The UNC Kenan-Flagler Center for Sustainable Enterprise is excited to partner with NCSEA on this report," remarked the UNC center’s director, Carol Hee. "It highlights our state’s success with the rapid growth of solar PV and geothermal energy systems, and also points out areas for improvement to ensure that more homeowners and small business owners can save money with these technologies."

In the third quarter of 2013, North Carolina overtook Arizona as the U.S. state with the second-highest capacity of installed PV, behind California, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research.