The 59-home "Solar Settlement" in Freiburg, Germany
E.ON will expand its co-operation with Sungevity into Germany, in a move widely expected since the German utility bought an equity stake in the California-based solar company last year.
The push will start with a pilot phase in Berlin and Munich, with E.ON to begin using Sungevity’s software platform to analyse the economics of potential rooftop installations for customers without needing to send out technicians.
Sungevity’s platform “calculates for the client which yield can be expected and how much of the generated electricity the clients can use themselves,” says Robert Hienz, chief executive of E.ON’s retail electricity arm in Germany.
E.ON and Sungevity have already been targeting the Netherlands on a “co-branded” basis, and “the whole European market is fair game”, Sungevity co-founder and executive vice president Danny Kennedy told Recharge in a recent interview.
To date, E.ON’s footprint has been relatively small in solar – and especially distributed-generation solar – compared to wind. But that may change quickly as Europe's largest electric utility embarks on its radical transformation plan, which will see it cleave off its conventional generation business and focus its remaining business on three pillars – renewables, energy networks, and customer solutions.
Oakland-based Sungevity is the third largest residential solar company in the US – trailing only SolarCity and Vivint Solar – but unlike its larger rivals it does not do any in-house installation work.
Rather, it uses its software platform to lure customers, analyse the solar potential of their roofs, and offer various financing options, including solar leases and PPAs. Downstream partners handle the actual installation work.
The US residential solar market is more sophisticated than many European markets in terms of how it approaches customers and what it offers them, particularly in the realm of finance, Kennedy says.
“Solar as a service has been done really well in the US,” he says. “Some of the technologies and innovations around financial products we’ve seen in the US … we now need to bring to other maturing solar markets, those getting off feed-in tariffs.”
With the exception of SolarCity, which offers micro-grid solutions internationally, Sungevity is alone among the major US residential solar players in pushing overseas. In addition to Europe, the company is also active in Australia.
Last month Sungevity said it would begin offering its customers in the US and Europe smart energy storage systems made by Germany's Sonnenbatterie, as part of a new partnership between the two companies.
Germany remains the world’s largest solar market in cumulative capacity terms, although it will soon lose that title to China. But the German solar market has shrunk dramatically for three years running -- falling from 7.3GW in 2012 to 3.1GW in 2013 and just 1.9GW last year -- as the government reined in the feed-in tariff.
The German market is expected to resume growth in 2015, and will remain at the vanguard of integrating PV -- both large- and small-scale -- into its electricity matrix. Solar accounted for nearly 7% of Germany's electricity consumption last year, and at times during sunny weekends that figure has risen above 50%.
In 2014, E.ON made an equity investment in privately held Sungevity, as part of a plan to expand its activities and influence in Silicon Valley