Third-party ownership models have quickly become a favorite model for homeowners in the U.S. to reap the benefits of lower electric bills through solar installations—and now, thanks to Sungevity, the model has gone international.
The company announced on Nov.17 that it formed a partnership with Dutch solar installer Zonline that will allow Dutch homeowners an opportunity to have a solar system installed on their roof at no upfront cost.
It’s the first time to this reporter’s knowledge that the third-party financing model has been used outside the United States for residential solar.
“We like to continue to push the envelope. We’re very happy to be the first [to offer the service internationally],” said Sungevity president and founder Danny Kennedy..
The company expanded into the Netherlands because of the locally high price of electricity.
“We share this vision with the team there to provide easy, affordable solar. There aren’t subsidies there like there are here for solar, but it’s competitive there. We’re talking about scaling into market without subsidies,” Kennedy said.
While the model isn’t quite the same as the U.S., where solar leases and power-purchase agreements are financed with tax-equity investments, the end result is the same.
Homeowners get a solar installation on their homes for no upfront cost and have a set payment for the installation for the term of the contract. That should be attractive to the fiscally conservative Dutch, according to Kennedy.
“It locks in a fixed-rate of electricity cost that will be up to 20 years. They’re creating savings for themselves going forward,” Kennedy said.
The PV installations there will be supported through a financing arrangement with the utility, according to Kennedy.
“It looks like the lease, but it’s not a lease. The utility is able to finance the systems with another financial institution that pays for it upfront. Then they repay it through monthly payments,” he said.
Zonline will harvest the power of Sungevity’s iQuote service. Through that online service, potential customers enter their home’s address and receive a quote on the monthly cost of a system on their home, as well as the system’s size.
Most of the work is done by the software that Sungevity’s developed, which uses insolation data and other information to estimate the potential of solar at an address, then uses Sungevity solar designers to determine the best proposals for the location.
“We’ve done as much as we can to streamline it,” Kennedy said. The streamlining reduces the number of pre-construction visits to a site, helping reduce the cost of installing solar on a site further, he said.
One of the big things the expansion shows about Sungevity’s model is its scalability, according to Kennedy. The company will continue to look for new markets to introduce its service.
“The limiting factor for solar around the world is not solar the resource, it’s the electricity rates,” he said.
The company will continue to look to other markets for expansion based on those factors, which could include further expansion into Europe.