NEW YORK (AP) — As the head of the nation’s largest rooftop solar installer, Mary Powell has a stake in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, which includes tax credits to make rooftop solar more affordable.
But the Sunrun CEO’s enthusiasm for the bill’s passage goes beyond business. Powell was passionate about climate change long before it became a cocktail party topic. Now that President Joe Biden has signed the legislation into law, Powell believes the growth of the residential solar industry will accelerate, bringing the nation closer to meeting its climate goals.
The Associated Press spoke with Powell about the impact of the law on reducing inflation. Answers have been modified for a long time.
Q: How much will the Inflation Act boost solar industry growth?
A: We’re seeing 33% year-over-year growth and incredible customer demand. At the same time, we are still collectively as an industry at only 4% of the 77 million addressable homes.
I think mainstream America is really realizing the value of solar and storage and electric vehicles. So this legislation makes my heart sing because it means that so many more customers who would benefit from a more affordable, durable, comfortable future will now be able to do so.
We need to go from 4% of the addressable market to a much higher number to meet the emissions targets in this act.
Q: Does the legislation make it easier for lower-income Americans to access solar energy?
A: Our average customer currently has an average household income of $50,000 to $100,000. So with the added support in the bill for lower-income, working-class families, we really expect that to continue to be the segment that grows by orders of magnitude. So we’re really excited about that.
This has some very good incentives that will help us grow the multi-family housing project that we are doing now.
So many decisions affecting energy-related emissions are made at the kitchen table. This account is full of ways that when that conversation is happening at the kitchen table, customers can see, “Oh my gosh, I could go with an electric vehicle and save money, I could go with solar energy and save money. I could have storage space and save money.” And then you put it all together, and the average American in that lower working class could actually save $1,800 a year, which when you balance school budgets, health care, food costs, etc., that’s a a significant number for so many Americans.
Q: Why is increasing the amount of rooftop solar so important to you?
A: The grandfather grid solution cannot be the only solution of the future. It’s a really important part of the solution.
Some people don’t realize that the solar energy we put on rooftops in a given year adds up to the amount of capacity of a nuclear power plant. Just think about this. And that’s on rooftops across America. So when we combine storage with that, another thing that I’m excited about then is how we can leverage those elements that work with the grid operators, with the utilities, to really lower the cost of the grid for everybody and to make it more durable. all.
Q: How have attitudes about climate change evolved since you started?
A: I used the word climate change and they basically said, “Ugh. Never use that word. You’ll be looked down upon, people won’t take you seriously.”
I was definitely the garden party brat at any of the public service events I went to, talking about customer obsession, talking about innovation, talking about distributed grid, talking about climate change. So things have changed dramatically.
It is so exciting to me that there is now so much national and international interest. So much money is being invested in climate solutions, technological solutions. It’s a complete sea change in the last two decades. So while I wish it had moved faster — it’s the way I’m wired — I can also see that things have changed quite dramatically, and this bill might be the catalyst for the next really big change that needs to be we do as a society.