Earlier this summer, I wrote an article on the state of solar power on the sunny Hawaiian island of Kauai. Nearly 90 percent of the power generated and consumed in Hawaii is the product of imported fossil fuels.
But it turns out that even with extremely high electricity rates and ample sun -- solar power doesn't appear on people's rooftops automatically, despite the promise of grid parity. The technology has to be affordably financed -- and that wasn't happening in Hawaii. Until now.
SunRun just announced that its solar power service is available in Hawaii. The VC-funded startup allows homeowners to have rooftop solar panels installed for zero dollars down and with monthly payments for solar electricity. SunRun owns, monitors, maintains, and insures the solar panels.
Lynn Jurich, the president of SunRun, said, "Our solar power service now makes solar a reality for homeowners [...] by removing the high upfront cost." SunRun partners with local installers in each new market and has partnered in Hawaii with RevoluSun and Sunetric, two leading local integrators.
Alex Tiller, the CEO of SunRun partner Sunetric, said, "Hawaii will reduce its dependence on fossil fuels while taking control of its power bills," adding that, "This program opens the floodgates for every homeowner who wants to switch to solar."
SunRun has had a good summer.
The firm closed a $55 million Round C led by Sequoia Capital, along with existing investors Accel Partners and Foundation Capital. That brings SunRun's VC total to $85 million and project finance total to more than $200 million. That news came on the heels of PG&E's VC group, Pacific Energy Capital, making $100 million available to SunRun to finance solar panel installations.
SunRun now operates in seven states, with more than 5,000 customers across Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
There are other VC-funded firms competing in this market sector: SolarCity offers residential PPAs, while also providing the installation. Sungevity also finances residential solar through Power Purchase Agreements. And BrightGrid is a new entry in the field.
Rich Wong of Accel Partners, an investor in SunRun, said, "This is absolutely the most interesting part of the solar value chain."
"For cleantech energy to become mainstream, it has to come with both financing and service,” added Warren Hogarth, a Partner at SunRun backer Sequoia Capital.
I spoke with SunRun's President, Lynn Jurich, about this announcement and a few broader issues. Regarding energy policy, she said, "We need a real federal standard and a way to coordinate across states," going on to elaborate: "We need an actual strategy, we need some kind of federal policy -- either cap-and-trade or a federal RPS or something that gives us some runway."
Jurich continued, "The federal grant program did work. SunRun was able to build 2500 systems using that grant program."