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When do many people decide to go solar? When they’re referred by a friend or neighbor. » Yale Climate Connections

Rooftop solar panels can save people money on their electricity bills. And those savings can mean a lot — especially for people with low incomes, who might have to choose between paying for utilities or buying food or medicine.

But when people get a cold call or see a direct mail pitch for solar panels, they often ignore it.

Ashok Sekar is a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

He says this response is common even in California, where state subsidies cover the entire cost of solar systems for qualified residents. This essentially makes the solar panels free for some homeowners.

“And still very few people adopted,” he says.

But when they are referred by friends or neighbors, people are more likely to have solar installed.

Referral programs vary, but in many cases, the person who recommends the service gets paid a set amount when the person they referred has a solar system installed.

“Referral works because of familiarity,” Sekar says. “‘Oh, it worked for them, so it would work for me.’”

So he says referral programs can help increase the adoption of solar power in low- and middle-income communities, where the benefits will do the most good.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media

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