SolarCity’s recent successful IPO solidified its position in the industry as one of those “when it talks, people listen” kind of companies. SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY) VP Ben Cook’s answer to the question of what other services asolarinstaller might offer, asked during a Solar Power Generation 2013 panel discussion by Chadbourne and Parke’s Eli Katz, was therefore especially noteworthy.
Inverter specialist SMA America’s VP Bates Marshall framed Cook’s answer by noting that third-party ownership, which has driven the growth of SolarCity and other retail PV providers, allows solar companies “to bring on-line additional value streams over time. The PV system is the first deal that gets done but thanks to the frequent touches with the customer, the installer can come back and add another value stream.”
“And we know that customers’ behaviors change after they get a PV system,” added Sungevity founder Danny Kennedy. “They become better home energy managers because it is a budgetary thing they are conscious of, where before electricity it was something they didn’t know about. That’s what our industry should be conscious of because that’s the growth opportunity.”
“Solar is really just the beginning,” SolarCity’s Cook then said. “You have an opportunity to do energy efficiency. You have an opportunity to do home energy storage. You have EV charging. You have the whole demand response opportunity.
“There are many other technologies beyond solar regionally. In the Northeast, you may find ground-source heat pumps. The fact is, when you are doing a solar service model, you are providing the product, service, and finance. That lends itself to other types of products.
“A large percentage of our customers sign up for twenty years. That’s 240 billing cycles. We expect they are going to require other energy services along the way. A couple of years ago, we introduced energy efficiency. Customers voluntarily pay for a home energy evaluation after having their solar installed.
“We do a full energy model walk-through of the house and offer all kinds of energy management options the customer can choose and help prioritize those.
“Whether it’s fixing leaky duct work or replacing appliances, the ability of someone the customer already has a relationship with to come in and do other things is something you will see more and more of. One indication of that is the entry into the solar industry of people who do other things like alarm systems and other energy services.
“I think we’re right at the beginning of what is going to be an integration.”
Katz ended that segment of the discussion by observing there is also an opportunity for subcontractors with skills in associated services to align with solar installers.