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High Interest Rates, Regulatory Changes Crushing Us Residential Solar


Many US solar installers are filing for bankruptcy, with stocks falling by 15% to 30% based on weak guidance.

Solar installation technician on rooftop

People working in residential solar are familiar with the “solar coaster,” which is an experience of boom and bust that the industry has experienced as market and regulatory changes cause wild oscillations in business results. The residential solar sector is currently suffering a deep drop on the “solar coaster.”

A few macro forces are crushing the sector today. High interest rates have worsened the attractive loan packages made available to homeowners, and loan dealer fees have skyrocketed. Utility electricity prices have stabilized and even fallen from last year, making the prospective savings for a rooftop solar customer murkier.

Major residential solar stocks have shed 30% or more of their value in a single day following a foreboding Tesla earnings call, and reports of bankruptcy filings have surfaced.

Most installers are increasingly moving to a third party-owned lease or power purchase agreement model as loan terms have become increasingly unattractive to customers.

What’s more, California, which represents about half of the United States’ residential solar market, essentially set its residential solar market on fire with its new net metering rules. As the backlog of customers who rushed in to secure legacy Net Energy Metering (NEM) 2.0 rates dries up, the devastation of NEM 3.0 has begun to reveal itself.

NEM 3.0 slashed compensation for delivering local, clean electricity generated by a rooftop solar array to your neighbors. Rates paid by the utility for exporting solar were cut by about 80%. Installations have pulled back by 40% to 80% in California following the decision.

The onslaught may continue for California, as its commission mulls enabling investor-owned utilities to assign income-based fixed charges to its customers. It is also weighing a decision to limit the value of multi-family rooftop solar installations, despite spending the past two years justifying NEM changes based on a desire to make solar more accessible to renters and low-income customers.

Bernadette del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA), said that the state’s utility commission has taken the approach of “the beatings will continue until morale approves” for residential solar.

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