Florida Municipal Utilities Gather Customer Input on Solar Power

A majority of electric customers in 10 Florida cities believe utilities should investigate solar power, but if solar power increases electric bills, only a small percentage of customers are willing to pay more, according to research sponsored by the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA).

The municipal utilities that participated in the survey, included Gainesville, Green Cove Springs, Havana, Key West, Kissimmee, Leesburg, Newberry, Ocala, Orlando and Vero Beach. Many of these cities plus other municipal utilities in the state are considering joining together through FMPA in a large solar project to help lower the cost of solar power.

To assist cities in understanding their customers’ views on solar power, FMPA commissioned GreatBlue Research to conduct telephone interviews of electric customers in each city. A total of 2,565 surveys were completed. The composite survey results have a 95 percent confidence level with a margin of error of less than two percent.

Interest in Solar

Most residents, 72 percent, want their community to investigate solar, but one quarter of survey respondents have the impression that solar will lower electric rates. When customers understand that solar often adds costs to the electric bill, the percentage of customers who would willingly pay more for electricity decreased significantly.

Interest Declines with Cost

Only 13 percent of respondents reported that they are “very likely” to participate in a utility’s solar program that increases their electric bill, and 25 percent reported they would be “somewhat likely” to participate. A sizable 45 percent of respondents said they are “not at all likely” to pay more, while 7 percent were “somewhat unlikely” and 10 percent “didn’t know.”

Willingness to Pay

Among customers willing to pay more for solar, 19 percent reported being willing to pay an additional “$20 or more” on their monthly electric bill, while 11 percent said “$15 to $19.99” and 14 percent said “$10 to $14.99.”

Voluntary or Universal Participation

Among respondents who were interested in paying more for solar, more than half, 56 percent, preferred a “voluntary” participation model where customers could choose to pay extra for solar power, rather than a “universal” participation model where the utility supplies solar power to all customers and the extra cost for solar is applied to all customer bills.

Most Likely to Participate

Customers most likely to participate in a solar program are college graduates, age 18 to 44, who make $60,000 or more. Willingness to pay correlated to finances more than any other demographic characteristic.

Next Steps

The survey results, which were provided as a composite of all 10 cities and also with specific individual city results, will help municipal electric utilities in Florida decide whether to participate in FMPA’s joint solar project. FMPA plans to purchase a share of a large-scale solar project and will negotiate with potential power providers in the coming months.

The complete composite report of the FMPA Solar Energy Survey and Market Assessment Study is available at www.fmpa.com.

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