Going Solar

Research Findings Journal Articles

“Party affiliation predicts homeowners’ decisions to install solar PV, but partisan gap wanes with improved economics of solar”

New research article from Professor Fedor Dokshin studies impact of political identity on consumers’ participation in the energy transition

Professor Fedor Dokshin recently published “Party affiliation predicts homeowners’ decisions to install solar PV, but partisan gap wanes with improved economics of solar” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The study leverages comprehensive data on household installation of solar panels in New York State to show that there is indeed a partisan gap in the adoption of residential solar photovoltaics technology, attributable to elevated adoption rates among Democrats and depressed rates among Republicans, but, critically, local economic contexts mitigate this gap.

Fedor Dokshin is a professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto whose research and teaching interests are in environmental sociology, political sociology, organizations, social networks, and computational social science.


The perceived risk of climate change and the sense of urgency for an energy transition are both politically polarized, especially in the United States. Yet, we know relatively little about how political polarization affects consumer energy preferences and behaviors. Here, we use the case of residential solar photovoltaics (PV) in New York State to 1) measure the partisan gap in solar adoption rates and 2) test whether more favorable economics of solar PV mute the effect of political identity. Using household-level, longitudinal data that include nearly 63,000 completed residential PV projects, we find evidence of a partisan gap in PV adoption. Democratic homeowners are approximately 1.45 times as likely to adopt solar PV as Republican homeowners. Republicans’ rate of adoption is the lowest of all measured groups, behind Independents, unaffiliated voters, and homeowners not registered to vote. Crucially, however, Republicans in our sample appear to be the most attuned to the changing economics and financing options of solar PV. Our estimates suggest that 1) as homeowners’ electricity rate increases relative to its long-run average, the adoption gap between Democrats and Republicans narrows, 2) that Republican PV adopters obtain systems with higher expected economic value, and 3) Republicans take greater advantage of alternative financing models, like leases and power purchase agreements, especially when the upfront costs of solar are high. The results demonstrate that political identity affects consumers’ participation in the energy transition, but local context, including the local economics of solar, may mitigate the effect of personal politics.

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