It’s no surprise that many leading manufacturers of everyday home devices have teamed up with Nest Labs. From LG and Whirlpool to Philips and Lutron, there is no shortage of emerging ecosystems around smart home and energy use, and Nest's developer program is certainly one of the most popular.
Enphase, the leading microinverter firm, will integrate its solar data with Google-owned Nest thermostat data.
The coming integration using Nest's API is just one example of downstream solar providers looking to work with other smart home vendors that offer new branding opportunities as they move beyond the rooftop and into the home.
“It’s about bringing key players together with different core competencies,” said Ilen Zazueta-Hall, director of product management at Enphase.
Already there is a movement beyond just integrating with point solutions. Enphase also has a relationship with Nexia to integrate with its smart home platform and with homebuilder Lennar. “Solar needs to be the next granite countertop,” said Zazueta-Hall. “It’s the thing you first saw only in high-end homes, then it becomes something everyone just wants.”
Enphase, which now refers to itself as an “energy technology company," recently announced a partnership with MyLight in France to control where the solar load is going in the home. Although the elements of the broader energy offering are just coming together, CEO Paul Nahi has been talking about this pathway for years.
Enphase is just one example of the many ways residential solar players are integrating more deeply into the home, according to a new report from GTM Research, Energy in the Connected Home 2015: Technology, Evolution, Landscape, and Distribution Strategies.
"Currently, partnerships based on incorporating solar rooftop generation data into more mature technologies, such as smart thermostats and gateways, are just being established," said Omar Saadeh, senior analyst with GTM Research and author of the report. "Solar service providers are also pursuing efforts of integrating energy storage and EV charging, and many players have indicated larger-scale ambitions in the next few years."
Some of the early moves have just been about pairing up offerings that both have some cachet. Sunrun partnered with Nest in 2013 by giving free thermostats to Sunrun customers, while Nest customers received a discount voucher for a Sunrun solar system.
Another partnership with a significant "cool" factor is between SolarCity and Tesla. Last year, SolarCity said that energy storage will be a standard part of its offering by 2020. It will be much more than just a marketing strategy, with deep integration between the storage and solar systems to allow for far more than just backup power.
Eventually, however, solar will have to fit in with an entire ecosystem if some of the companies want to be energy service providers. One of the most comprehensive offerings to date is from Vivint, which has a bilateral marketing agreement between its home security and energy business and its solar business. Vivint rolled out its proprietary smart home platform last year, and has been piloting internet along with its connected home and solar offerings.
Others are making investment in broader platforms as well. In December, SunPower invested $20 million in Tendril and licensed the Boulder startup’s energy services platform. SunPower customers will be able to choose different outcomes, such as saving more money or using more energy to better align with solar production, and then get recommendations for shifting usage. In the future, much of that shifting could be automated.
NRG is another market player that has ambitions to sell not just single solutions such as solar or EV charging, but a suite of services to the next generation of energy consumers.
The coming Enphase and Nest integration will be immature in terms of automation. Customers will see their thermostat settings in relation to a home’s solar production, but changes in solar production will not automatically trigger changes to the thermostat set points.
In the future, Enphase said it intends to have a deeper integration with HVAC systems that will allow changes in solar production to change the settings on a thermostat, based on a homeowner’s preferences. Enphase expects to announce more details when it launches the Envoy-S energy management system later this year.