Companies of all sizes from across the country and world are becoming majors adopters of onsite solar PV systems. As more businesses continue to switch to this clean, renewable energy source, it will demonstrate the long-term viability and savings gained by utilizing solar power. As noted by GreenTechMedia, experts are projecting the U.S. commercial solar market to nearly triple in size by 2020.
Overcoming obstacles to onsite solar
Unfortunately, there are a few too many companies unwilling or unable to make the transition to onsite solar generation. For many multi-state corporations, having to navigate through a mish-mash of different state policies and regulations has created difficulty for project managers trying to install onsite solar systems. This market fragmentation has bogged efforts and created hurdles that have made it easy to end up with a system that fails to fulfill its estimated returns.
In addition, many companies have decided to wait on taking advantage of solar PV until the costs decline further and there's a greater price incentive to install an onsite system.
However, the reality is that first movers who conduct research and implement well-designed onsite solar projects will be the ones to gain the most rewards from this transition. The economics of offsetting electricity costs with an onsite solar system have the potential - albeit an unlikely potential - to become less favorable. One of the clearest indications of this possibility is that although the Solar Investment Tax Credit was extended past its December 2015 deadline, the value of this credit scales down over time. This means companies will have less of a financial incentive to install onsite solar.
Historically, companies have not been mandated to report on their sustainability efforts. However, as noted by Deloitte, an increase in transparency and accuracy of sustainability reports has been growing among corporations. In addition, the introduction of heightened regulatory and legal scrutiny spurred by recent high-profile incidents has created growing attention to public company non-financial disclosures.
The many benefits of onsite solar
First, onsite solar comes with lowered utility rates, which ultimately help the companies save on their energy bills and reduce overall operating costs. While the installations may require a significant up-front investment, the company will obtain a return on investment over time. Due to the long-lasting durability of solar panels, depending on the company's energy needs, once the initial investment is paid off, an onsite solar installation can potentially cover the full electricity costs. Most onsite solar systems are installed behind the meter, which has a bigger impact on offsetting the electricity consumption at the site.
Second, consumers and the population at large are much more likely to patronize a company that demonstrates its commitment to renewable energy sources and sustainability efforts.
A recent survey from Nielsen revealed that 73 percent of millennials - a demographic quickly becoming the largest market sector - would be willing to pay a higher price for more sustainable goods and services. By marketing sustainability efforts through the use of solar power, many companies can potentially expand their market share and attract new customers.
Even further, a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey revealed 80 percent of investors who took part in the study considered environment, social and green factors to be relevant to a company's operations. If this trend continues or even increases, it could create a resounding ripple across the economy, in which companies that don't incorporate ESG factors could begin to see a dip in investor interest. This could spur more companies to pursue more sustainable efforts, such as installing onsite solar. Further, Deloitte reported that 73 percent of investors responding to a CFA Institute survey said they will take ESG factors into account during their investment analyses and decisions.
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