Commercial Solar in California Shines as Residential Market Slows

New data released by the California Solar Initiative provides insight into trends impacting the California solar market (data through November of 2016).

California Residential Solar Market Growth

Residential solar installations in November fell to 10,771, a decrease of 8 percent from November of 2015.  The California residential market has slowed in Q4, although will likely still show growth for 2016.  Through November, the residential market grew 7.4 percent from the same period in 2015 with 139,300 installations vs. 129,582 installations during the same period in 2015.  The slowdown is due to a number of factors, including high solar penetration in certain areas and the election.

California Residential Solar Market Share

National installer market share (SolarCity, Sunrun, and Vivint) continued to decline reaching 32 percent in November, down from 44 percent in the beginning of the year.  We researched this trend in Q2 of 2016 and attributed the decline to a pull-back in acquisition spend by national installers and increasing platform tools and support for regional installers within core financing and customer acquisition functions.

2016 California Solar Market By Customer Sector

A bright spot in the California Solar market was the Commercial sector, which has installed 222 MWs through November of 2016, approximately double the 114 MWs installed through the same time period in 2015.  The commercial market has been driven by corporate buyers, including Target, Walmart and Apple.  Financing companies, including Open Energy have helped open up the commercial solar market.

California Residential Solar Growth By County

Through 2016, San Diego County and Los Angeles counties saw mid-teens growth rates, while the Inland Empire counties (Riverside and San Bernardino) declined by 7 percent and 12 percent, respectively.  Growth in San Diego continued despite a change to Net Metering 2.0 in July of 2016.  Net metering 2.0 included an additional interconnection fee and time of use rate structure.  SDG&E was the first investor-owned utility in California to transition to a new private solar program after meeting previous program limits and was named the No. 1 utility in America for renewable energy sales.

This article was originally published by Solar Leaderboard and was republished with permission.

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David Rather is the Research Director for Solar Leaderboard, an analytics and research platform serving the U.S. solar market ( ).  David leads the firm's research efforts including state level weekly reporting on installation and pricing trends.  David has over 12 years of experience within environmental policy and data science.  

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