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Growing Impacts of Residential Solar on Utility Customer Service

The continued growth of photovoltaic rooftop solar has resulted in debates across the US concerning utility ratemaking reforms, the extent of subsidies for PV and fundamental changes to the utility business model.

While regulators and stakeholders grapple with these questions, utilities are faced with the immediate reality of serving customers who have adopted PV systems. What is the impact on utilities’ customer-service operations? Do utilities help customers with supplier selection and installation and maintenance issues? What about billing questions?

To begin to address these questions, DEFG and Enovation Partners conducted two surveys of residential electricity customers. The first, a sample of over one thousand Americans, was intended to provide a snapshot of customer attitudes towards rooftop solar (comprehensive survey). The second survey targeted residential customers who have already adopted PV systems (PV adopter survey).

This Public Utilities Fortnightly article explores why residential customers adopt solar and how they go about choosing a supplier. Next, it turns to these customers’ needs once they have chosen to obtain solar and the role of the utility in assisting them. Finally, the article discussed the customers’ satisfaction with their choice of solar and the implications for their current and future relationship with their utility.

The overall thesis is that the advent of rooftop solar represents an overwhelmingly positive opportunity for utilities to increase their level of relevance for residential customers. Utilities must be prepared to modify their customer support processes and capabilities. The research indicates that PV adopters’ opinions of their utilities have improved since choosing solar.

Throughout the customer journey, customers who have adopted rooftop solar seek more, not less, contact with the utility. We believe utilities that take a proactive approach to integrating solar customers’ needs into their core customer service operations can achieve improved customer satisfaction and greater customer affinity. Utilities that do not take a proactive approach risk handing an opportunity to solar installers or others.

(Full Article: http://www.fortnightly.com/fortnightly/2016/07/here-comes-sun)

 

Daniel Gabaldon and Matthew Guarini are directors at Enovation Partners. Jamie Wimberly has served as CEO of DEFG since it was founded in 2003.

Filed Under: Customer-service, UCRC