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Solar Buyer’s Markets: Potential PV Price Savings of Online Quote Platforms

A series of NREL reports show that solar PV customers can obtain lower prices by obtaining quotes through online platforms.

Context

On online quote platforms, prospective solar photovoltaic (PV) customers can obtain and compare quotes from multiple competing installers. The ability of customers to obtain more quotes and the competition between installers may allow customers to receive lower prices on online quote platforms. Fewer than 5% of PV customers currently use these platforms.

A diagram shows how an online quote platform allows a prospective customer to submit their requirements and then receive, compare, and select quotes from installers.

Online quote platforms allows customers to obtain and compare multiple quotes for a solar PV installation, helping them secure lower prices.

NREL Partnerships with Online Quote Platforms

To study how online quote platform prices compare with the quotes obtained directly from installers, NREL researchers partnered with the online quote platforms EnergySage and Pick My Solar. The partnerships resulted in four studies that use online quote platform data to ask and answer different research questions.

Solar Buyer's Markets: Unlocking Lower Photovoltaic and Battery Prices on Online Quote Platforms explores differences in quote prices for PV-plus-storage systems on an online quote platform versus prices for quotes obtained directly from installers.

In Effects of Platform Design on the Customer Experience in an Online Solar PV Marketplace, NREL researchers partnered with researchers from the University of Texas at Austin to explore how online quote platform designs determined various aspects of the online solar shopper's experience, including prices.

The Value of Transparency in Distributed Solar PV Markets tests how online quote platform prices vary based on the number of quotes obtained per customer.

Using Residential Solar PV Quote Data to Analyze the Relationship between Installer Pricing and Firm Size uses online quote platform data to evaluate price differences between high-volume and small- and mid-scale installers.

Key Findings

The studies found that:

  • PV prices are about $0.20/W to $0.40/W lower on online quote platforms compared to market-wide prices. These price differences are robust after controlling for various market- and system-level characteristics (e.g., system size, module efficiency). For a typical residential solar PV system, the price differences equate to about $1,000 to $2,000 in savings.

  • Customers that obtain many quotes tend to obtain lower prices than customers that obtain few quotes. Put another way, installers tend to offer lower prices when they expect customers to receive more quotes. This result is one reason customers tend to obtain lower prices on quote platforms: online solar shoppers typically obtain more PV quotes than customers that obtain quotes directly from installers.

  • Platform designs that provide more information to online solar shoppers are associated with lower prices. Platform designs that educate PV installers about competitive prices are also associated with lower prices.

  • Online quote platforms may increasingly integrate batteries as PV-plus-storage becomes more common. Preliminary findings suggest that battery quote prices are lower on online quote platforms.

  • NREL researchers identified various pathways to increase the use of online quote platforms, including developing strategic partnerships, building customer trust, increasing market transparency, and providing quality guarantees.

Learn More

To learn more, consult the technical report, fact sheets, and related journal articles for each report.

Solar Buyer's Markets: Unlocking Lower Photovoltaic and Battery Prices on Online Quote Platforms

Technical Report

Fact Sheet

Effects of Platform Design on the Customer Experience in an Online Solar PV Marketplace

Technical Report

Fact Sheet

Related Journal Article

The Value of Transparency in Distributed Solar PV Markets

Technical Report

Fact Sheet

Related Journal Article

Using Residential Solar PV Quote Data to Analyze the Relationship Between Installer Pricing

Technical Report

Fact Sheet

Contact

Robert Margolis,  Author

This research is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.