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How COVID-19 Has Increased Solar Demand

Published Mar. 12, 2021

The social distancing requirements put in place to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus sadly have closed many businesses throughout California, while greatly reducing the operations of others. When it comes to solar, however, companies like Citadel Roofing & Solar, and our customers, have adapted to the new way of doing business.

In fact, the pandemic is motivating homeowners and business owners to go solar for many new reasons, on top of the traditional ones.

We describe these new motivators below, along with an overview of how the process of going solar works during a pandemic. We also reveal the impacts the pandemic has had on demand for solar, and how COVID has impacted who’s going solar.

Traditional Motivations to Install Solar

Homeowners and business owners continue to install residential and commercial solar energy systems on their roofs and land for many of the same reasons as before the coronavirus:

  1. Electric bill savings
  2. More independence from the utility
  3. Environmental benefits that help combat climate change.

Why People Are Installing Solar in a Pandemic

In addition, the following motivations are driving solar adoption in California in the age of COVID:

  1. Working from Home: Vast numbers of people now work from home due to the coronavirus. It’s expected that some employers will continue their telecommuting practices once social distancing guidelines and requirements are lifted, now that working-from-home has proven so effective. In addition, many children attend school classes remotely, i.e. from home. iStock-1217382268

    But working and schooling from home means using more electricity, to power computers, printers, lights and heat or A/C. So while many people are happy with the ease and convenience of working from home, and the commute savings, it’s safe to say none are happy with their increased energy bills. Solar offers a fast, easy way to offset this increased usage and the corresponding electric bills.

  2. More Time at Home: Whether working at home or not, most Americans are spending significantly more time at home than before the virus hit, whether to self-isolate, quarantine or simply comply with social distancing guidelines. That means people are spending more time looking at their homes and noticing sorely needed improvements. And for some, they now have more time to oversee home improvement projects that will make their lives easier, more comfortable, or less costly. 

    Enter solar—the easy answer to a less costly, more comfortable home, and a project for which the homeowner’s or business owner’s time commitment is minimal. Citadel handles all the permitting, scheduling, installation and approvals required for you to go solar. Once you choose an installer, your involvement is minimal.

  3. Exorbitant Electricity Rates: According to a news report from ABC10 in Sacramento, the 40 percent of California’s population served by PG&E pay twice the national average rate for electricity, and that was before the coming increase (see next item). If you look at all families and businesses across the state, the rate is 1.6 times the national average.

    With more time to focus on their electric bills, and with those bills surging from more time spent at home, people are up-in-arms and determined to find a better way to power their homes and businesses.

  4. PG&E Rate Increases: On March 1, 2021, PG&E electric rates increased by 8 percent. According to this article from The Mendocino Voice, that equates to an average monthly electric bill increase of $13.44 for residential customers, or $161.28 per year. Rate increases are never welcome but they’re particularly frustrating for utility customers already struggling due to the pandemic. Solar offers some escape from those bills and some independence from the utility.

  5. Persistent Planned Outages: People are fed up with the utilities’ forced power outages, the so-called Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) that are widespread and frequent during wildfire season, in an effort to prevent utility equipment from sparking a fire. Working from home is tricky enough, between distractions and less-than-ideal workstations. Working from home with frequent power cuts is downright difficult and demoralizing.

    That’s why people increasingly install solar energy storage systems in conjunction with solar energy systems. An energy storage system allows individuals and businesses to have some electricity during outages, planned or unplanned. The system’s batteries store the site’s extra solar energy and dispense that energy when the homeowner or business owner chooses.

Federal Tax Credit Extension

Although not pandemic-related, a recent policy development is also spurring people to go solar now: The federal government recently extended the “Investment Tax Credit” (ITC)—which is essentially a rebate—at 26 percent of the price of a residential or commercial solar energy system.

The tax credit was scheduled to drop to 22 percent in 2021, but bipartisan support extended the 26 percent rate for two more years. This exciting news reflects the change in administration in Washington, D.C. more than the pandemic, but the result is sure to help people struggling financially due to the pandemic.

Pandemic Impact on Solar Installation Time

One of the new negative impacts of the coronavirus on the process of going solar has been increased wait time for cities and towns to act on requests and approvals for building and electrical permits, and related inspections. This reflects staff reductions in those departments and more people working from home. But Citadel has been managing our relationships with these jurisdictions for years, and we know how to stay on top of the process to ensure everything happens as fast as possible.

The Solar Process During a Pandemic

So, now that you know why people are still having solar installed during a pandemic, and how solar can in fact improve the financial situations of many during these tough times, you might be wondering how the process works. Has it changed due to social distancing requirements? Is it better or worse now?

According to members of Citadel’s sales team, the pandemic has had minimal impact although it has had some. Here’s how things have changed in each stage of the going-solar process:

  • Contacting Citadel: All the usual ways apply, including phone (800-400-2852) and web contact form. As with businesses throughout California, many of our employees are working remotely, but that doesn’t affect our ability to field your calls quickly and professionally.
  • Getting Started: Citadel has suspended in-person sales calls since videoconferencing has proven to be nearly as effective. When a visit to the home is deemed necessary, we don’t go indoors and we wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines. But for the most part, our sales professionals can provide information, answer questions and determine the best solutions for you over the phone or Zoom as easily as in person. And the online availability of precise aerial imagery allows us to design the system presented in your proposal without a site visit.

    This increased reliance on phone and video conference, in addition to providing important COVID-related safety benefits, frees up more of our team’s time to help more people go solar, since they’re not on the road as much.
  • Proposals: Our free proposals are delivered via email, as always.
  • Site Survey: After the contract is signed, a Citadel site surveyor visits the home or business to verify the initial design and adjust if needed. This entails taking final roof measurements, confirming the roof’s condition, inspecting the electrical panel, etc. MKT_Ty_200413-1Surveyors remain outside and limit customer contact as much as possible. We do sometimes need to go inside, e.g. to determine the rafter spacing in the attic or to photograph the inside electrical subpanel for battery customers. Indoor or out, we wear masks and social distance. Also, our use of drone technology eliminates the need to get up on the roof in many cases, which greatly reduces our time at the property, providing COVID-related safety benefits as well as physical safety benefits for our surveyors.
  • Installations: Our field crews continue to install roofs, solar energy systems and energy storage systems as they always have, but we minimize going into homes and offices as much as possible. These days, we only go inside if truly needed. We wear booties and masks and wash our hands before and after.
  • Service: Our service team continues to provide support and repairs related to roofs, solar and storage, regardless of whether we installed the system. We observe all social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines, also wear booties into the property, and minimize going inside as much as possible.

Summing Up the Impacts

There you have it. The drawbacks of going solar during this pandemic are:

  1. No in-person contact with your sales representative
  2. Slightly longer wait times for municipal permits, inspections and approvals.

The positive impacts of the pandemic on solar are:

  1. The cost-savings from solar are more meaningful and necessary than ever as people struggle with reduced income and increased electric bills due to working and schooling at home
  2. We are able to help even more people learn about and install solar because our solar professionals are spending less time on the road
  3. Because they’re working at home, more people are able to find the time to look into solar.

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