Solar marketing in the Sungevity style is coming to Europe.
Solar sales and customer acquisition platform firm Sungevity is partnering with European utility E.ON to speed the growth of solar power in the Netherlands. Sungevity also acquired Dutch partner Zonline to coordinate its European business.
In April, Sungevity raised a $70 million funding round led by Jetstream Ventures, along with investments from utility E.ON and GE Ventures. Today's news is an outgrowth of the E.ON investment.
The online solar sales company has now raised more than $200 million in VC and project financing from investors including Brightpath Capital Partners, home improvement store Lowe's, Vision Ridge Partners, Oaklandimpact, Greener Capital, Firelake Capital, Craton Equity Partners and Eastern Sun Capital Partners.
Sungevity claims it can quickly deliver a firm price quote for residential solar rooftop systems without having to pay a visit to the site. According to a release, Sungevity's sales in the U.S. doubled in 2013. We recently reported that Sunrun and Sungevity had formed a partnership to enroll at least 10,000 new residential solar customers.
We spoke with Andrew Birch, Sungevity's CEO, on Tuesday.
"The recent story in solar has been about finance," Birch said, adding that a few years ago, "the story was about hardware and panels."
"Going ahead," continued the CEO, "it's about customer acquisition." This is a salient point in light of the fact that it costs almost $3,000 to acquire a residential solar customer in the U.S.
"We wanted to build the most effective, scalable platform for solar adoption," and the move into Europe is "an example of this scalable platform being applied to a new market," he said.
Birch said it wasn't about "more advertising or a new billboard." He added, "We'll partner with a utility with reach and trust, combined with our scalable platform, to massively scale solar."
Solar works in the Netherlands because of the 27-cents-per-kilowatt-hour price of electricity in the country, according to the CEO. It's the second-highest-priced energy market in Europe, and that means solar makes sense for consumers there.
The utility can reach out to its clients, move potential solar customers into the Sungevity sales funnel, and possibly deliver co-branded quotes and service offerings from E.ON and Sungevity. As in the U.S., Sungevity will continue with its model of using "quality assured installers" rather than opting to vertically integrate.
Installing residential solar in Holland is cheaper than in the U.S., and the typical installation there is about half the size of the average American system. So the typical solar rooftop costs $6,000 to $7,000, according to the CEO, and customers in the Netherlands tend to pay in cash. There is no third-party ownership option in the country.
Birch said, "It speaks to where the industry is today," adding, "How customers choose to finance a system will evolve. We'll just provide the best offer." Birch also said that when a product become a cost-competitive commodity, "it's about brands, and how you sell to the customer, and provide an amazing customer experience."