Not Much Cheer For The Solar Industry This Season
That a surge in utility demand for solar panels is affecting demand from other markets within the United States is old news. But that surge is becoming increasingly expensive for other markets . According to a new report from U.S. Solar Market Insight Report and GTM Research, the third quarter of 2017 was the solar industry’s most challenging in two years. Even as the non-residential PV market grew by 22% year-on-year, the residential market registered a 51% decrease during the same time period to 2,031 MW.
GTM Research attributed the slowdown to four factors: political uncertainty, rising equipment prices, slowdown in maturing markets, and a churn within residential installer rankings. According to the report, segment-wide customer-acquisition challenges have constrained growth in major state markets. Solar companies have also shifted tracks to the more lucrative and profitable utility market from door-to-door sales. Solar market growth has been affected due to the switch.
A Reuters report spins the report differently and blames the industry-wide slowdown on Tesla’s decision to curb SolarCity’s excesses post-acquisition. Tesla’s installation numbers were down by 42% on a yearly basis. The Reuters report points to SolarCity’s market share in the last couple of years, from a quarter of the overall market to over 30 percent, as reasons for the slowdown.
While SolarCity was the dominant player within the solar panel sweepstakes, Reuters’ argument seems to consider Tesla’s actions in isolation and does not take into account the effect of government policies on its decisions. After years of providing credits to US homeowners for solar panels, the government is scaling back its federal tax credit for residential installations and may phase it out altogether in the near future. The Trump administration’s moves to promote coal and tax solar panel imports have also led to political uncertainty as cited by the report.
The near term future also does not hold much cheer for solar markets. The report forecasts a decline of 22% to 11.8 GW from 2016 levels.