Social Learning and Solar Photovoltaic Adoption

49 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2019 Last revised: 24 Aug 2020

See all articles by Kenneth Gillingham

Kenneth Gillingham

Yale University

Bryan Bollinger

New York University (NYU) - Department of Marketing

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 3, 2020


A growing literature points to the effectiveness of leveraging social interactions and nudges to spur adoption of pro-social behaviors. This study investigates a large-scale behavioral intervention designed to actively leverage social learning and peer interactions to encourage adoption of residential solar photovoltaic systems. Municipalities choose a solar installer offering group pricing, and undertake an informational campaign driven by volunteer ambassadors. We find a causal treatment effect of 37 installations per municipality from the campaigns, and no evidence of harvesting or persistence. The intervention also lowers installation prices. Randomized controlled trials based on the intervention show that selection into the program is important while group pricing is not. Our results suggest that the program provided economies of scale and lowered consumer acquisition costs, leading to low-cost emissions reductions.

Keywords: non-price interventions, social learning, renewable energy, solar photovoltaic panels, technology adoption, natural experiment

JEL Classification: D03, L22, Q42, Q48

Suggested Citation

Gillingham, Kenneth and Bollinger, Bryan, Social Learning and Solar Photovoltaic Adoption (August 3, 2020). NYU Stern School of Business, Available at SSRN: or

Kenneth Gillingham

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06511
United States
203-436-5465 (Phone)


Bryan Bollinger (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Department of Marketing ( email )

40 W 4th St
Tisch 804
New York, NY 10012
United States

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