Solar trade must address ignorance and lack of trust to boost solar sales
Posted by Cathy Debenham on 7 January 2015 at 2:50 pm
There is a healthy appetite for solar panels among home owners in the UK, but the findings of a recent survey indicate that the solar trade still has considerable work to do to ramp up domestic installations.
The good news (for solar installers, not homeowners!) is that 81% of UK adults are concerned about rising energy bills, with nearly half saying they would like to use rooftop solar as a way to mitigate them. Half of those who don’t already have solar panels say they think they would install them if they had the money to do so, or had financial support.
24% currently without solar panels said they would be encouraged to install solar panels if they simply knew where to go for advice. 12% say they are, or are likely to start, investigating installing solar panels as a way to mitigate energy price rises.
But (there had to be a but) 61% don't know about the feed-in tariff - the government's incentive scheme to encourage installation of solar panels. Just 10% felt they fully understood what the feed-in tariff is. This is disappointing to hear five years after the scheme was announced.
I wonder if part of the problem is that most of the communication of feed-in tariffs to consumers is left to installers. They are predominantly small to medium size, with limited marketing budgets. Manufacturers tend to put most of their marketing effort into trade advertising to installers. Is there a case for trade bodies and manufacturers to get together to do more consumer-facing awareness-raising advertising?
Also putting people off is concern about the solar trade. Thirty per cent of respondents weren’t sure they could trust solar sales people and 18 per cent worried about finding a reliable installer. And they do have a point here. While the vast majority of installers are doing a great job, there are companies out there that are flouting the standards and ignoring the Renewable Energy Consumer Code requirements. The changes outlined recently by MCS are a step in the right direction, but they need to happen swiftly. People expect random inspections of a reasonable number of installations to be part of policing installers - and that needs to be fast-tracked to help build confidence.
Installers can help build trust by signing up to review sites (like YouGen) and getting their customers to review them.
Not surprisingly, cost is also a barrier with 38% of people put off by the upfront investment needed. However, if people know that they can get financial support, and have confidence in the solar trade, that could make a significant difference to the size of the market and the number of domestic solar panel installations.
Photo: London Permaculture
More information about Solar Electricity on YouGen.
Need help with any Jargon?By Cathy Debenham
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