The cost of solar energy has dropped so much that it is now an affordable choice for homeowners.
That's what the National Solar Energy Campaign (NSE) wants to promote: the opportunity for homeowners to use solar energy for their homes.
The NSE was established in 2008 and has three main objectives. First, to help homeowners assess the financial and environmental feasibility of a home solar system. Second, to educate consumers about the benefits of solar energy and provide them with guidance on making the right choices for their families' energy needs. Third: Build a renewable energy portfolio using sustainable sources.
How does NSE achieve these goals? By working with the federal government as part of a five-point plan.
1. Create attention
NSE begins by educating its audience about the importance of solar energy and the cost-cutting benefits that solar energy brings. According to a 2016 report by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), the average American household spends $600 a year on electricity, costing them about $1,800 a year in total. According to the report, the national electricity bill would drop by about $3.7 billion a year if every household in the United States replaced just one average light bulb with a solar-powered one.
That's why NSE makes it a habit to educate its audience about the many benefits of solar energy and why it's the perfect solution to the energy needs of so many homes. For example, in California, the state that promotes the most sustainable energy practices, a family of four would save about $750 a year by switching to solar power. And since California is known for its sunny weather, the benefits of solar power are obvious! Another example: A home near Baltimore saves about $400 a year by using solar power instead of electricity from the grid.
2. Achieve financial profitability
Next, NSE wants to determine whether a residential solar system is viable in terms of cost and environmental impact. To this end, NSE creates a financial analysis tool that calculates the payback period of a solar-powered home. NSE defines payback as the time it takes to recover the cost of the system. In this tool, NSE takes into account all costs associated with the installation, including labor and material costs. That includes the upfront cost of purchasing the solar system itself, as well as the operating cost, which is the total amount the homeowner will spend on electricity over time, calculated at 8.84 cents per kilowatt hour.
In general, NSE recommends that families choose a system that returns in less than 10 years. If a homeowner's goal is to cut their electric bill in half within the first year, NSE advises them to look for a system that costs no more than $5,000.
3. Create long-term sustainability
Once a potential customer has a good idea of how much money a solar-powered home could save them, NSE helps them make a more informed decision by pointing out the environmental impact of using electricity. For example, the ACORE report states that the manufacture of a single light bulb releases 5.4 grams of mercury, a toxic metal. Speaking of light bulbs, the NSE points out that the average American household replaces 70 light bulbs each year, and all of those bulbs contain mercury. So when a homeowner chooses solar energy, they are doing their part to protect the environment by reducing the number of light bulbs used.
NSE also encourages its viewers to reduce their carbon footprint by choosing more environmentally friendly devices and energy-saving bulbs, such as bulbs that use LEDs (light-emitting diodes) instead of traditional incandescent bulbs. In general, NSE advises consumers to choose products that are eco-labeled, meaning they meet minimum requirements set by the government to protect the environment.
4. Support the local community by choosing New Jersey
For anyone considering a solar powered home, NSE has a vested interest in their purchasing as many New Jersey made products as possible. To this end, NSE has developed an Environmental and Social Responsibility Policy which commits them to promote local businesses that are socially and environmentally responsible.
To find these companies, NSE looks for companies that are committed to protecting the environment, providing stable jobs and contributing to their communities through social engagement. To this end, NSE is partnering with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to support small businesses that choose to switch to solar energy. Specifically, NSE connects businesses in need of financing with SBA-approved lenders who can provide loans and grants to help families reduce their energy bills and become more energy efficient.
5. Increase consumer choice
The NSE is responsible for ensuring that consumers have the information they need to make the right choices for their families' energy needs. To date, they have achieved this through successful partnerships with electricity providers such as PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) and Eversource (New England's largest electric utility), as well as solar panel manufacturers such as SunPower and Sungevity. Through this work, NSE has grown from 20,000 to 25,000 unique visitors per month and now has over 500,000 subscribers to their email list.
In general, NSE is in favor of greater consumer choice and supports any effort to give energy consumers more choice. For example, NSE supports legislation in the California state legislature that would allow electric companies to sell competitors' electricity directly to consumers. This would give them more options and control over their energy bills and allow consumers to find cheaper sources of energy.
To make a solar powered home financially viable, NSE advises consumers to follow the four steps related to credit.
1. Determine your income
The first step to buying a solar powered home is to determine your income. To do this, look at your monthly income and expenses and figure out how much you have left. Your income can come from a variety of sources, including wages, investments and government benefits. Your expenses can include everything from rent to transportation costs to utility bills. By combining your income with your expenses, you get a clear picture of your financial situation. This is what NSE refers to as your cash on hand.
If you do not have enough money left after paying your expenses, NSE recommends that you look for additional sources of income to cover the cost of your system. For example, consider getting a mortgage on your home or getting a credit card that offers cash back rewards.
2. Choose the right time to buy
The second step is choosing the right time to buy a solar powered home. In this connection, you must consider when you will consume the generated energy and how much the purchases will cost. For example, if you plan to use the energy produced during the day, it is best to buy a system that works in 12-hour mode and is fully charged at night.
In addition, NSE recommends that you purchase a system that fits your current power plan. If you are already a customer of an electricity supplier, you can inquire about their special financing offer or see what tariffs they are currently offering their customers.
3. Check different financing options
Once you have determined your income and expenses, NSE recommends that consumers explore various financing options, such as loans and grants. Loans are long-term obligations to repay an amount including interest. Grants are money that the government makes available to you without you having to pay anything back. You normally have to fill out a form to apply for a grant, but the NSE says you shouldn't wait too long for the government's feedback.
While a loan gives you the funds to make a purchase, a grant allows you to make larger investments in renewable energy sources and protect the environment by reducing your dependence on fossil fuels. When you have to choose between a loan and a grant, NSE recommends choosing the latter.
4. Be ready to make payments
The final step in buying a solar powered home is being ready to pay your utility bills. This includes paying your electricity provider regularly, even if you don't use much power. For example, if you are a light sleeper and wake up during the night to use the bathroom or go for a walk, consider purchasing a solar-powered system that automatically adjusts output to meet your needs.