Research - 11.02.2020 - 00:00 

Some 57 percent of homeowners in Switzerland want a solar panel system on the roof

The switch to renewable energies for supplying buildings with power is an important step in the fight against climate change. In light of this, the Institute for Economy and the Environment of the University of St.Gallen (IWÖ-HSG) investigated how many homeowners would install a solar panel system and under what conditions in a representative survey.

11 February 2020. About one third of global energy consumption is attributable to buildings, which means they play a very relevant role in the emission of greenhouse gases. Since 2018, financial support for solar panel systems in Switzerland has been significantly reduced. And it will expire completely in 2030. As a result of this, an important financial incentive for new installations will disappear. In order to be able to convince as many homeowners as possible to purchase a photovoltaic system in the future, it is necessary to better understand the preferences of the users.

Four hundred and eight homeowners surveyed

For this reason, the Institute for Economy and the Environment of the University of St.Gallen conducted a so-called "Choice Experiment" in which it surveyed 408 Swiss homeowners who intend to renovate the roofs of their homes in the next ten years. The study participants had to choose between different hypothetical renovation solutions. These differed, firstly, as to whether solar panels are used or not, and if so, how they would be installed: those simply attached to the roof (budget version) or firmly integrated into the roof using solar tiles (premium version). In addition, the renovation options had to be evaluated in terms of colour, investment costs, discount offers, origin of the solar panels and their financial savings potential in relation to energy costs.

Product differentiation is important

The study shows that 57 per cent of homeowners are interested in installing a photovoltaic system during their renovation. Forty three per cent would not use them. The latter group includes more women and people with limited budgets. Twenty six per cent of all respondents prefer the premium option, 31 per cent would fall back on the budget option. The former are not necessarily more affluent than the latter and do not have a higher level of education.

"This finding shows that product differentiation on the part of suppliers is very important for the maximum dissemination of solar panel systems," says Beatrice Petrovich, who conducted the study together with Prof. Dr. Rolf Wüstenhagen and Dr. Stefanie Hille. The survey also revealed that red and black solar panels are more popular than blue ones, which are still the most widely available at present. Homeowners also prefer panels made in Switzerland and those from Europe to those from China.

Using social contagion

Photovoltaic systems also meet with greater approval if they are already widely used within the social environment. "This could be used by people from politics or marketing, for example, by running special campaigns that make new installations more visible within the area," says Beatrice Petrovich.

Aesthetic solar panel systems for public buildings

The general aesthetic perception of solar panels should also be addressed. According to the study, an important reason for their rejection is that they are perceived as unattractive. Beatrice Petrovich on this point: "This could be tackled, for example, by installing aesthetically pleasing photovoltaic systems on prominent public buildings in collaboration with architects.

The study completed by the IWÖ-HSG is part of an interdisciplinary research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, which deals with barriers to the spread of building-integrated solar panel systems.

You can find the complete study online via the following link: here

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