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Slower growth does not reflect weaker demand for rooftop solar, installers say

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Slower growth does not reflect weaker demand for rooftop solar, installers say

Slowinggrowth among the largest residential solar installers is not a sign ofweakening consumer demand, developers insisted July 11 at an industryconference in San Francisco.

Ratherthan signaling a market slump, lower installation levels by companies such asSolarCity Corp. andSunrun Inc. reflectfactors such as the extension of the federal investment tax credit, or ITC, in2015 and increasing investor focus on profitability.

"Weare seeing a slowdown, but … the overall industry growth expectation on acompound annual basis over the next five to six years is still 20% to 30%,which is, as we view it, quite healthy growth for companies that are amassingphysical growth," Sunrun Vice President of Project Finance Danny Abajiansaid at Intersolar North America.

Thedecision by Congress to extend the 30% ITC "created more certainty andremoved a lot of the panic to install a tremendous amount of capacity towardsthe end of last year and throughout this year," Dividend Solar PresidentEric White said. "Does that mean that there's less interest from consumersfor residential solar? Absolutely not. I think it's just a matter of morethoughtful growth versus just a race."

Inaddition to those headwinds, national developers are facing increasingcompetition from regional installers that have lower overhead expenses andlocal connections that make customer acquisition less costly.

"Wehaven't seen any slowdown in customer demand … but what the data did show is ashift in mix in terms of more volume in some of the long tail, so some of theregional, medium-sized players are getting, actually, some uplift," YgreneEnergy Fund CEO Stacey Lawson said.

Lawsonnoted a parallel shift in customer preference for loans and cash purchasesinstead of the leases and power purchase agreements that national companiesused to grab market share in recent years.