Rooftop solar is great, in theory. Instead of letting sunlight that is hitting our roofs do nothing more than heat up our shingles, a rooftop solar system can take that same solar energy and use it to generate electricity. 20 years ago, solar panels were prohibitively expensive, but new technology and manufacturing techniques soon slashed the cost.
Even still, the cost of a rooftop solar system was large enough that creative financing models were needed to pay for them. Conventional lenders were skeptical of the new systems and refused to lend money to finance them. 5 years ago, companies like SolarCity devised leasing programs to make rooftop solar accessible to more families. Recently, no-money-down purchase options have become available.
But barriers still remained. People who wanted a rooftop solar system still had to navigate a permitting process that could be confusing and arbitrary. Leases and purchase agreements often interfered with the ability to sell a home without a lot of extra legal expense and hassle.
Many conventional, investor-owned utility companies have resisted the wave of new rooftop solar systems, claiming they would destabilize the electrical grid. In reality, however, they are more afraid of losing customers and therefore revenue than anything else. Their response to rooftop solar has been to punish homeowners who installed solar panels on their homes with burdensome monthly surcharges.
There are relatively few municipal utility companies in America, but those that do exist look at the market for electricity differently than investor-owned utilities. The municipal systems follow a much more service-oriented approach that does not need to satisfy bond holders.