Green in the Wallet: Political Identity, Cost Effectiveness, and the Diffusion of Residential Solar

Wednesday, 12 October 2022, 10:00am (HKT) on Zoom

Climate risk mitigation demands a rapid energy transition away from fossil fuels and the widespread uptake of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies. Researchers and policy makers, however, have raised concerns that a successful energy transition may be undermined by a public that is deeply polarized on the issue of climate mitigation. Fedor Dokshin uses the case of residential solar photovoltaics (PV) in New York State to (1) measure the partisan gap in solar adoption and (2) test whether more favorable economics of solar PV mute the effect of political identity. Leveraging computational record-linking approaches, he created a longitudinal, household-level dataset, consisting of nearly 100,000 residential PV projects completed between 2010 and 2020 among more than 9 million households in New York State. The study finds evidence of a substantial partisan gap, with Democratic homeowners about 1.4 times as likely to adopt solar PV as Republican homeowners. Critically, however, Republicans are especially responsive to the changing economics of solar PV. The partisan gap shrinks when electricity rates increase making solar a more economically efficient choice. The results carry significant implications for research on political polarization and diffusion of innovation as well as for policies aimed at accelerating the energy transition.

FEDOR DOKSHIN is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto. His research and teaching interests are in energy and the environment, organizations, and social networks. His ongoing research uses data science methods and novel data sources to understand why people oppose or support new energy technologies and how political contestation affects policymaking, the emergence of new industries, and the distribution of environmental risks and benefits. His previous research has appeared in Nature Human Behaviour, Nature Energy, American Sociological Review, and Social Forces among other outlets and has been supported by grants from the primary science funding agencies in the United States and Canada.

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