Marketing Barriers Slow Adoption of Solar Power

by | Aug 31, 2009

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solarmotivationA new report from the Clean Energy Group and SmartPower highlights several marketing initiatives across the U.S. that are driving growth and interest in solar power in several states. At the same time, the director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center suggests that more investment in research and development for low-carbon energy sources like solar is a better and cheaper solution than the Kyoto Protocol.

The report, Smart Solar Marketing Strategies, indicates that solar programs must address all four primary barriers — cost, reliability, complexity and inertia — to market growth in order to drive solar power installations. These marketing strategies, which address barriers to solar adoption from the perspective of both clean energy programs and solar marketers, can be used as a guide for states that are establishing their own marketing plans, according to the report.

A key finding shows that in order for a state’s marketing plan to succeed it must address the technology’s value proposition, its perception of unreliability, the complexity of purchasing solar and consumer inertia.

The report also indicates that solar program initiatives should include the four classic elements of marketing — product, price, place and promotion. As solar incentive programs examine their offerings based on these four areas, it will help states develop their own marketing plans that are more customer-focused, which will be more effective in achieving solar goals, according to the report.

In a commentary printed in the Detroit News, Bjorn Lomborg, the director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, and an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, said the global community should make low-carbon energy sources like solar power become a real, competitive alternative to old energy sources. Lomborg wrote “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and “Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming.”

Lomborg suggested that by investing heavily in research and development of low-carbon energy, solar power, or other new technologies, they would become cheaper than fossil fuels much more quickly. He also noted that research investment in new technology has not increased among Kyoto participating countries.

He believes the meeting in Copenhagen in December will embrace the same solutions — promises of drastic emission reductions that are unlikely to be fulfilled.

His recommendations call for every country to spend 0.05 percent of its gross domestic product on low-carbon energy research and development. Lomborg said in the article that this would be 15 times higher than current spending on alternative energy research, yet six times lower than the cost of Kyoto.

Lomborg also said in his commentary that there are two fundamental reasons why a focus on reducing carbon emissions is the wrong response to global warming. One reason is because fossil fuels remain the only way out of poverty for developing countries, and there is no “green” energy source that is affordable enough to replace coal in the near future.

Second, immediate carbon cuts are expensive and outweigh the benefits, said Lomborg. He calculates that if the Kyoto agreement had been fully implemented throughout this century, it would have cut temperatures only by 0.2 degrees C (0.3 degrees F), at a cost of $180 billion annually.

In addition, the 20 percent cuts below 1990 levels within 12 years proposed by the European Union would reduce global temperatures by only one-sixtieth of one degree Celsius (one-thirtieth of one degree Fahrenheit) by 2100, at a cost of $10 trillion, Lomborg stated. So for every dollar spent, it would do just four cents worth of good, he said.

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