A recent article in the New York Times takes an interesting look at a partnership between TXU (a utility in Texas) and SolarCity (a Silicon Valley solar supplier) designed to help homeowners go solar. The article says "TXU Energy, with two million customers, is making it possible for homeowners in the Dallas area to lease or buy rooftop solar-power systems in one of the first programs of its kind."
Although this type of program is not one of the first, the author correctly states that utilities are the key to widespread adoption of solar power.
When solar suppliers partner with energy providers (especially utilities), adoption happens much faster. This is because most buyers in a market wait for the availability of a standard product that is made by a leading supplier who sells the product through someone familiar. These attributes are known as product intangibles. And together TXU and SolarCity can deliver most of these requirements.
This type of solar program however is certainly not new. In 1993 Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) began offering a standardized 4 kW solar electric system valued at $24,000 for only $7 per month. SMUD retained ownership of the system. After 10 years the customer could purchase the system for 10% of its original value ($2,400). Then in 1999 SMUD began selling the same system (worth $24,000) for only $4,800.
When SMUD offered PV to their customers through these two programs (called PV Pioneer) my research revealed that late adopters started signing up in droves. SMUD's program effectively delivered all of the product intangibles required by laggards and late adopters before making a purchase.
This latest initiative by TXU Energy is another version of a concept that is at least 17 years old. But it works!
Solar Product Perception