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New study: Customers want more solar ... and more help

A new DEFG Enovation Residential Solar Study says utilities should plan for a wave of residential solar customers calling them after they buy solar systems---wherever they bought those systems from. 

“The prevailing belief among utility stakeholders is that customers will stop calling or not require as much customer service once they install solar PV systems on their homes,” said  Jamie Wimberly, CEO of DEFG, during a recent presentation to National Association of Regulatory Commissioners (NARUC). 

“In fact, utilities should expect to provide significant customer support requirements and will face the potential for even more customer contact,” he said. “This support will be needed across all stages of the customer journey—from initial research to installation to billing and maintenance.”

“As a result, there is a clear need to prepare for solar-specific service levels, staffing, system requirements and cost-to-serve calculations differentiated from the traditional customer service model.”

Wimberly and Dan Gabaldon, Founding Partner at Enovation Partners, highlighted findings from two comprehensive customer surveys in a presentation before the NARUC Subcommittee of Consumers Affairs at the association’s annual convention. The surveys included one of the general American population and one focused on residential customers who already have adopted solar.

“Our research challenges the conventional wisdom that solar poses a grave threat to utilities’ relationship with their customers,” noted Enovation’s Gabaldon. “We found just the opposite!”

“Solar adopters are overwhelmingly positive about their decision, perhaps since over 85 percent met or exceeded their expected savings (40 percent reported savings of 20 percent or more on their electricity bill). And nearly half of respondents indicated they had more positive feelings toward their utility since choosing solar, and most were interested in increasing the range of solar-related information and services from their utility.”

“The challenge for utilities is finding a way to meet their solar customers’ new and expanded needs.”

The top 4 takeaways from the two surveys:

1.) Nearly half interested in switching to solar.

2.) Most cited lower bills and cleaner energy as reasons for that interest.

3.) Most think their local utilities support solar (or are neutral about it).

4.) If they had questions, most would start with the utility (even if they'd contracted to a solar company).

 

The full presentation on the surveys to NARUC is available on the Enovation Partners website here. 

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