46 items found for ""
- A Balanced Perspective on the Challenges Facing the US Residential Solar Industry
I’m sure many people will read the very negative TIME article out today on US residential solar, “Rooftop Solar Industry Could be on the Verge of Collapse”. I’ve seen a few of these hatchet jobs over the last 20 years—biased reports, but important contributions to ensure we address real issues in our market. Firstly, I’m thankful that we operate in a market in the US where people are free to share their opinions. It’s terrible that certain individuals have signed contracts with solar providers, not fully understanding the mechanics, math, and commitments within those contracts. We need to dig into that and address this, more than we are already doing. There are, of course, issues in US residential solar sales, especially around aggressive sales tactics in a portion of the market and the complexity in finance. However, to ensure sustainable growth in this crucial industry, we do need a balanced picture. So, in case anyone needs the counterarguments—given they were not presented—and to provide an attempt at balance, I offer my perspective here: The core source of issues with US rooftop solar, and why the market is declining right now, is that it costs 3x as much as everywhere else due to regulatory and permitting issues that don't exist outside the US. In addition, the once-in-a-generation hike in interest rates disproportionately affects solar economics given the high upfront cost relative to the low ongoing operating costs. As solar is more expensive in the US vs internationally, fewer people can afford the upfront cash, and so monthly-pay solutions are more common. In the US, over 80% of home solar is financed vs approximately 20% in most other markets. To achieve sustainable growth in the industry, we need to address the bureaucracy and cost problems, and the best way to do that is to roll out SolarAPP+, now used by over 150 cities, growing rapidly to standardize and automate permitting, addressing this issue—a fundamental problem not covered by TIME. And of course, interest rates are forecast to fall this year, which would reverse what is always a cycle (has been for hundreds of years, so let’s keep that perspective too), a fact also ignored by TIME. The article suggests all solar finance is acidic and punitive, but how do we buy houses today? We buy them with mortgages. Finance itself is not the enemy. Yes, finance adds to the lifetime cost of going solar, but using finance also frees up your own capital to invest in other investments that themselves have returns. Therefore, we need to include the complete economic cost and benefit to a customer. Solar does have a higher upfront cost vs a fossil fuel-based solution (e.g., electricity via the grid), but what TIME also ignores is the low operating costs, which are extremely low compared to other (dirty) options. The TIME article singularly avoids the environmental benefits of solar to homeowners and the community at large, with zero mention of the climate crisis and solar’s immense contribution to decarbonization, nor does it celebrate the millions of solar customers enjoying lower-cost energy today that is also silent, clean, and green. The TIME article does not discuss the financial benefit to homeowners of locking in a fixed cost of energy (whether they pay cash upfront or monthly financed solutions). This is alarming given the rapid escalation in retail rates, e.g., the latest 28.4% rate rise in the corrupt CA market from PG&E. To associate solar finance with mispriced, misrated, mis-sold mortgage-backed securities on Wall Street is inflammatory and without any basis of truth. Having a deep source of capital in the ABS market to lower the cost of capital to end customers is a huge achievement. We should be thanking the bankers (for once they are doing something useful to society and should be thanked!). To take the rise in interest rate of one single ABS, ignoring the rising interest rate environment generally is at best misleading. The problem is not finance. It is mis-selling. What the article doesn't say is the % of sales that are mis-sold. Which from the math they allude to suggests it’s a very low portion—in GoodLeap’s case 0.01%. “Mis-selling only 0.01% of solar sales in the clean energy revolution” as a headline would tell a different story. Given so many positive articles on solar, I truly applaud a journalist attempting a hack job to counter consensus, but it should be data-driven. Every industry will have some rogue salespeople, and we need to take this issue very seriously but also recognize that the vast majority of solar systems are sold by small local businesses, by incredibly high integrity individuals and teams who are out there to save customers money and clean up the energy sector with zero carbon, zero emission modern technology. When profit-hungry, commercially-biased ambulance-chasing lawyers say they get ‘multiple calls’ without citing any data as a portion of the total sales made by the industry, we have to recognize a journalist looking for sensationalist headlines and ground ourselves with data. “Her case is not uncommon” is not a data point when there are over half a million new installs every year across the US. We do need to address the mis-selling though, and the US has about 30% of sales today done door-to-door with often quite aggressive sales tactics. And it feels to me that SEIA, to the degree they are able to represent distributed solar, needs to step up with a framework for door-to-door sales, especially when involving finance, to help guide the industry to best practice. I think OpenSolar could work more with our finance partners to digitize the education process to ensure (with digitally recorded transcripts perhaps) that customers are made aware of all the critical elements of finance. Also, I personally think that we as an industry should not be ashamed to print interest rates with zero commissions so homeowners can see the cost of capital. Because the usual case is that the monthly payments save customers money! And as interest rates fall, that will only help us and the customers. The fact is that despite all this article's noise, the biggest headline, that the vast majority of Americans can spend less per month on energy with a monthly pay solar solution, is somehow missed. And that I think is a really powerful message that needs to be heard in balance with the important issues raised. And of course, I agree with TIME that we absolutely must always do better on sales and explaining finance to end customers. If SEIA can’t step up, I wonder if the largest solar finance companies could create a code of conduct and work with independent experts and the government to validate this so we can ensure improvement going forward? We can do a lot without adding another layer of cost and bureaucracy that would further inhibit the ability for clean energy to save customers money in the US—just as the rest of the world is scaling solar rapidly. The US residential industry is struggling right now, due to interest rates and the change in California policy to remove the right to spin your meter backward with solar, which resulted from intense utility lobbying (and $111m of payments by the utilities and unions to buy the result in Sacramento—not mentioned by TIME magazine). California used to be 50% of the US solar market and has now halved in size. With high fixed costs for installers and challenging working capital conditions given the physical nature of solar purchases and installations, this has led to multiple bankruptcies, and certainly we will see more over the coming months. But this is not due to a failure in the capital markets or mis-selling; it’s due to a failure in state policy and the broader interest rate cycle. This article is a kick in the teeth to the 99.99% of solar installers who work hard and work correctly every day to grow our industry and save customers money. So nice try TIME, but I don’t buy it. We’ve had these localized, time-stamped problems in the past, and we’ve improved and survived, and we’ll grow and thrive again, because solar professionals are stoic and heroic, and because Americans and all humans around the world want clean, low-cost energy for their families—and because the math is the math: solar is now the lowest cost electricity humankind has ever had (source: IEA).
- Enterprise Services
When Adam and I started OpenSolar, we set out to build the best technology solution we’d ever imagined - and make it free of charge to the solar professional (the Pro). This idea of best and free remains our core principle today, helping us grow to become the world’s largest solar design, sales and project management platform, serving over 8,000 solar companies in 13 languages and 150+ countries. Here I’d like to update you on where we’re at with our revenue model and Enterprise Services. Over the last 6 years we’ve integrated services from over 130 partners globally into OpenSolar. Now we can effectively help deliver the services that Pros need to scale their business efficiently and profitably - like marketing collateral, imagery, finance and hardware ordering - all within the Pro’s own existing daily toolkit. Partner Services are an efficient way for major businesses, like distributors, OEMs, and lenders, to find and serve Pros across the OpenSolar community. These partners sponsor the platform so it’s free to all Pros around the world. I’ll pause here to say a huge thanks to all our partners, for the massive impact this has now on our industry and helping Pros profitably grow! Over the last few years we’ve also increasingly heard from some really large Pros that they have highly specific enterprise needs such as custom implementations of our free API, premium training, completely unique customer proposals, faster and larger data throughput, and a variety of other services. We’ve successfully helped lots of these large Pros in this way. Now that we’ve really got this dialed, we’re formally launching Pro Services, so get in touch if you have any of these enterprise level needs. Lastly, we’ve been testing and receiving loads of positive feedback from Pros and partners on our pilot of Marketing Services. As Pros many of you travel miles and spend $$$ to visit conferences and events to make sure you’re in-the-know on the latest products and solutions. Marketing Services brings the best product updates and offerings into the app, so you get a regular view of leading new technologies to be aware of and try out - and on the flip side, Marketing Services helps solar brands connect with the thousands of Pros on the front line of solar out there making the difference. So that’s it. We’ve pulled all these Enterprise Services together here on our site, so feel free to take a look and see if there’s anything above and beyond we can do to help you. And of course, the core best and free principle remains, for the thousands of Pros out there driving the shift to clean energy.
- 1% Commitment - Our Collective 2023 Impact
Thanks to OpenSolar’s co-founders Andrew birch and Adam Pryor, my for-profit and non-profit working lives have merged, and now feel completely and perfectly aligned. In 2023, with the 1% annual revenue commitment of OpenSolar and its partnership with Empowered by Light, we’ve been able to help two communities in Zambia go from poverty and subsistence farming to commercial farming operations with more food available to the people there, and profits from selling excess produce to send children to school. Lives will also be saved by avoiding encounters with dangerous wildlife there. It’s fantastic when the passions of different groups of people converge, with motivations and incentives aligned and everyone wanting the same outcome. In this case, you have a community willing to embrace and use a new technology. You have a mission-driven technology platform in OpenSolar that wants to see solar adoption everywhere, across rich and developing countries. You have an incredible NGO in Empowered by Light, with operations designed to ensure that people can be lifted out of energy poverty. You have a global community of solar installers whose success on the OpenSolar platform permits us to do this kind of work. And you have other groups, like the LinkedIn Alumni to which I belong, who see the bigger picture and the imperative to decarbonize our planet, and have so generously donated this giving season. It’s truly a moment of inspiration and hope for me. This year has been tough. Despite the fact that solar has grown massively around the world, there have continued to be huge disruptions up and down the supply chain. Here in the states, Gavin Newsom and his pals at the California Public Utilities Commission used NEM 3.0 to gut the state’s rooftop solar market (which represented 50% of the overall US market), which in turn caused the loss of at least 17,000 solar jobs here. But the movement continues. Higher grid energy prices continue to be foisted on consumers around the world, solar panel prices are down to the low $0.20’s / watt, and despite the corruption of COP 28, people continue to realize in ever bigger numbers that generating and storing their own energy, and propelling themselves from A to B with that energy is not only the way to go, but is way cheaper than the alternative, especially as interest rates level off and start to fall in 2024. Our collective desires for peace, prosperity, a healthy planet and the greater good continue to converge, and although there are huge challenges in the world as we leave 2023 behind, we are going slowly but surely in the right direction. I want to thank all Openers, our unstoppable community of solar professionals, the team at Empowered by Light and its donors, and so many of you who have been supportive of this vision in 2023. My family and I send you love and light for 2024. The future is bright.
- NEM 3.0 - a short sighted, protectionist, anti-climate, pro-utility, clean energy disaster.
As a platform supporting over a third of Californian solar installers, the small businesses leading the state's energy transition, it has been saddening to see a 60% reduction in sales volume in 2023, and to read about the 17,000 job losses this year - all the direct result of California's ‘pro-climate’ governor’s decision to cut the value of solar electricity on the grid by 80% with his “NEM 3.0” policy change in April. We have to call it out for what it is: a short sighted, protectionist anti-climate pro-utility clean energy disaster. With the fossil fool utilities lobbying and owning state government thinking, how on earth are we going to modernize and clean up American energy? Right in the middle of a climate crisis we’ve more than halved the size of the Californian distributed solar industry, which used to represent 50% of US home solar sales. You can see the utility chiefs in their big offices smiling, while the livelihood of thousands of employees of the hundreds of small solar businesses reel in pain. Imagine these entrepreneurs, working hard for years to build a great business saving customers money with clean energy, then this. Bankruptcy at the hands of an overnight policy disaster. I speak with knowledge of this pain, in my case it was coal-loving Trump in 2017. There’s obviously an argument for updating net metering rules to ensure the values of solar are properly calculated, but Sacramento’s caving in to the big company lobbyists' demands, instead of phasing into a new battery-powered gross metering regime as battery prices fall, is sheer stupidity. OpenSolar advocates for a phased approach to a market based value capture model, where all energy producers are treated equally, where carbon and pollution is taxed, where the value to the grid of storage and distributed energy near the point of consumption is reflected, where permitting is automated, instant and digital, where interconnection is free and automatic, and where utilities have to compete on merit, not on closed door bullying. We stand by all of our pro community to help where we can, and hope Governor Newsom sees sense and re-instates 2.0, until a phased approach can be agreed, so we can enjoy clean affordable energy for all Californians.
- OpenSolar Exclusive Deals of the Month, from Solar Outlet
After we announced our integration partnership with OpenSolar, we saw a fantastic response from Aussie solar professionals. I think what they liked the most was being able to grab all the hardware data from their sold projects on OpenSolar and immediately turn it into an order on Solar Outlet. This avoids all the hassle of putting down one tool, opening another, and manually transferring the data across, which can take ages. We’ve been really happy with the initial uptake. So happy in fact that today we’re announcing an OpenSolar Exclusive Deals of the Month Program. Every month we’ll offer something to OpenSolar Pros that they can’t get anywhere else, including on Solar Outlet. All OpenSolar Pros have to do to get the deal is log in to their OpenSolar account and go to Hardware. To kick things off, the first OpenSolar Exclusive Deal of the Month is on the Longi 430W all-back panel. The exclusive special price is 11% cheaper than our standard price, and 3% cheaper than even our sale price on Solar Outlet. We can offer this for the same reason that’s driving so many Aussie Pros to use this integration - it saves us all time and money. To unlock this exclusive price, log in to the LONGi 430W order page in your OpenSolar account, follow the queue to register with Solar Outlet, and the team should activate your account and reveal the price soon thereafter. We’ve got some great deals coming up every month but they’re all going to be limited time offers, so be sure to watch your OpenSolar account closely. Thanks for your continued support!
- Upgrading to the New Google Solar API
OpenSolar has been designed from the very start to work with Google image data. When we created the platform, we harnessed Google’s Project Sunroof free beta which has provided fantastic value to OpenSolar and to the solar professionals we serve around the world. Today, I’m thrilled to announce that OpenSolar is upgrading to the all-new Google Solar API. This new and improved dataset from the Google Maps Platform provides higher quality 3D models, plus imagery that is higher resolution and more recent. Geographical coverage is also greatly expanded. Effective today, all of your new projects created on OpenSolar will default to the new Google Solar API. For all of your projects created before October 25, they will continue to load in your OpenSolar account as usual until 30th October, but please be aware that you will need to realign your solar designs to use the new data if they are still live after 30th October when the old imagery will no longer be available. Slight adjustments to panel positioning may be required due to slight differences in the improved 3D models that are now available. The Google Solar API that is now the default imagery option on OpenSolar will continue to improve over the coming months. The people at Google have been fantastic partners for OpenSolar and we look forward to continuing our great work together to continuously improve your experience on OpenSolar. Finally, please note that Google 3D legacy imagery will no longer be available from November 1st 2023.
- Investments in climate tech have never been more vital
The threat of climate change is becoming more dire every day. Although there’s growing public awareness of the issue and governments frequently acknowledge the need to take greater action, the trends are alarming. If we stay on our current trajectory, the planet will surpass critical warming thresholds too quickly – an outcome that will have severe consequences for food production, land and ocean ecosystems, coastal infrastructure, and much else. While governments must take more immediate action on climate change, the private sector has an integral role to play in the mitigation of climate crises. Despite what seems like a constant stream of bad news, the amount of innovation taking place to address climate change is extremely encouraging. For example, wind and solar power have become far more affordable, reliable, and efficient in recent years – a development that’s only gaining momentum. According to Bloomberg NRF, global solar investment has skyrocketed to almost an annualized US$500B run rate. There are also novel solutions to climate problems in fields as diverse as software and insurance, which is a reminder that important contributions are coming from unexpected places. These are a few of the reasons Telstra Ventures is thrilled to support companies that are working toward a cleaner and more sustainable future. We can’t address climate change through government policy and behavioral change alone – as with countless past crises, human ingenuity will be a critical resource in the years to come. Building on a fundamental energy transformation There have been remarkable cost reductions and efficiency gains in the renewable energy sector over the past decade and a half. Between 2009 and 2019, the cost of solar plummeted from $359 per megawatt hour (MWh) to just $40 – a 89% decrease. The cost of wind fell by 70% over the same period. It’s no surprise that adoption rates are on the rise, and in 2022 the renewable energy supply rose by almost 8%. There are now over 4 million people working in the solar industry alone, climate warriors keen to execute the energy transition. Opportunities abound for investors to drive innovation in this field. For example, we are an investor in OpenSolar, which provides design software for solar installers in over 130 countries. OpenSolar offers digital tools (such as 3D design technology) that allow installers to accurately plan solar PV installations and manage these jobs to completion. Even non-technical users are capable of using the platform to create proposals, which can be in customers’ hands in just a couple of minutes. This drastically increases the number of jobs solar contractors can do and streamlines their business processes. There are many other areas where VC investment is pivotal, from generating and analyzing data on renewable energy procurement to emission-free manufacturing and transportation to new forms of infrastructure resilience and risk management. These are all exciting sectors that merit investment. Many industries and companies have a role to play Hardware investment in panels, turbines and storage are critical to the energy transition, but software also has a significant role. When we invested in DocuSign in 2014, it didn’t seem like a climate tech company. But the company’s now ubiquitous digital document services have saved 73 billion sheets of paper and 7 billion gallons of water, while eliminating 389 million pounds of waste and 5.6 billion pounds of additional CO2. There are other companies that streamline operations and help customers reduce waste, such as Enable – a collaborate rebate management software network which helps manufacturers, distributors, and retailers build more efficient and data-driven supply chains. The electrification supply chain flows through Enable’s software, meaning that streamlining processes has a material role to play in scaling the transition. We also believe that renewable power purchase agreements (PPAs), which facilitate the sale of energy at fixed prices over many years to hedge against market volatility, are well overdue for innovation. Pexapark provides daily data on renewable PPAs searchable by technology (offshore wind, solar etc), location and tenor. This data is critical to enable investors in renewable projects to be able to sign PPA agreements faster, and therefore secure debt financing to enable these massive projects to be built. PexaMonitor also provides software for investors in renewables to dynamically understand the risk they face as government subsidies are gradually removed. We believe this will be essential to these large investors and leaders like Octopus Energy, Low Carbon, Ardian and Glennmont have already adopted it. How the climate investing landscape is shifting While huge strides have been made towards reducing emissions, we aren’t moving anywhere near fast enough. According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) data, the world is currently on track to see warming of 3.2 degrees celsius by 2100 – a number that far exceeds the target of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. It’s vital to keep working toward that target, but companies and governments must also prepare for the possibility that warming will take place too quickly. Simultaneous investments in climate change mitigation and resilience are necessary, which is why we’re proud to support reThought Insurance – a company using a sophisticated proprietary underwriting methodology and risk assessment platform to insure high-value properties exposed to potential flooding. This allows reThought to generate accurate resilience scores and achieve lower loss ratios than other companies in the industry. We can see parallels with using climate data to consider the incidence of other natural disasters in a warming world like bushfires. Companies like reThought are helping the world prepare for the realities of climate change, and sadly they have lots to do. Climate change is a frightening subject, and it will only become more urgent in the years to come. But the climate crisis has promoted radical innovation, and investors need to continue funding new technologies which can reduce carbon or deal with the consequences for the sake of a cleaner, healthier, and more stable world.
- Going Live with Hardware Ordering on OpenSolar, from Solar Outlet
Andrew Burgess and I established Solar Juice as a wholesale distributor of complete solar systems: solar PV panels, solar inverters, battery storage, mounting systems and balance of systems. But we always knew that in an ever more digitised world, we’d need to have a dedicated online ordering service. So we created Solar Outlet, with live stock levels, instant shipping quotes and 24/7 ordering. It’s been a great run so far, and thanks in part to our partnership with AC Solar Warehouse, we’ve been able to offer more and more products to Australian Solar Installers online. Solar Outlet now offers hundreds of individual products from a large number of quality Solar companies. I’ve known OpenSolar’s co-founder Birchy for around 20 years, way back from our time together at BP Solar. We were both stationed meters apart, within a few cubicles. From time to time we used to compare pricing notes for upstream materials and Solar Panels. I’ve watched his career with support and interest and I was psyched when he started OpenSolar in Australia with his mate Adam Pryor. Since then, I’ve seen OpenSolar go from strength to strength not just Down Under but around the world. They’ve amassed a massive contractor network who seems to live on the OpenSolar platform, running their designs, sales and project management. Integrating the Solar Outlet and OpenSolar platforms seemed like an obvious step for us to take - a real “1 + 1 = 3” moment. The teams have worked feverishly to create a super slick experience for our mutual customers. I love how much easier it is now to order hardware right from your sold projects without having to put down one tool and pick up another or manually transfer data across platforms. One Aussie installer even went as far as describing the experience as “easier than ordering a pizza online”. I think it’s important that if you’re going to run a solar business, especially in such a critical time, then your workflow had better be as simple and easy as possible. I reckon that’s what we’ve accomplished with this partnership. I would like to express my gratitude to Henry Mandorla and the whole Solar Juice team and say thanks to the OpenSolar crew for a great bit of work together.
- Vibe Solar’s time and effort savings with OpenSolar
Switching to OpenSolar Before OpenSolar, we definitely lived in BC (the dark ages). It was all Google Sheets. We had other design software as well but nothing really comparable to OpenSolar. The fact that homeowners can navigate through proposals in real time is a huge win for us. The fact that they can apply for loans directly from the app by themselves is a huge win for us. The fact that we can control OpenSolar directly... you get it. OpenSolar is free, but that was never why we went to OpenSolar. We went to OpenSolar because it was the only tool out there that literally had everything we were looking for: NREL-validated design accuracy, interactive proposals, over 70 partners fully-integrated, etc. When we found out that they pair and integrate with Dividend, that was another huge attractor for us just for simplicity's sake; offering the finance application and checkout experience from start to finish all in one place. Making the switch to OpenSolar was actually exciting. I'm definitely a strong believer in automation. Transferring over from the Stone Age to today's technology was a big win for us. I'm always trying to find opportunities with software that can kind of automate the process from A to Z. Saving time and working smarter At the end of the day, we all work really hard, but I think we also have to work smart. With other software, we would have to build designs and then go into Adobe and make edits, and then sales reps are calling me to make those edits and setting it on over, and getting it into a different platform for signatures. There are just so many steps of the process when it comes to the sale that are really behind the scenes, but it doesn't have to be tedious. Training and support Training with OpenSolar is pretty simple. One of the things I love most about OpenSolar is when you do have a question, you don't necessarily have to make a phone call. Getting in touch with an OpenSolar support team member is very easy. It's as if maybe you have their cell phone number; they're kind of always there. When you need an answer extra quick, the Help Center is the place to go. There's just a question box on the top of the page, just like with the Community Forum, and it's as simple as typing in your question. Finding what you're looking for is really easy too. OpenSolar has training videos and weekly webinars, too. Speed and accuracy Previously, it would take anywhere between 15 to 20 minutes to design. With the previous software, we also didn't have shading aspects involved, and so production numbers might have been skewed. We were inflating system losses back in the day by 14% just because we felt like that would cover any sort of production-related issues throughout the year, so we weren't necessarily having 100% accurate production. Having the setback-related options and jurisdictions, I mean, those kinds of things are all huge wins for us. Whereas before: It would take 15 to 20 minutes to design Then you would have to download a proposal And then if you wanted to make edits to the proposal and add additional panels, you had to create a second proposal. If you wanted the homeowner to see it, you'd have to download that proposal And then you have to email it over to them just so that they have a PDF If they want to make adjustments, you have to email them another proposal Now, it's all in one page. It's all in real time. Honestly, it's super attractive for our homeowners, too. All in one place We've got a lot of positive feedback especially with the QR functions, and the copy links, and being able to not only email your proposal to the customer but text them in real time. You can keep them on the phone, text them over the link, wherever they're at, they can jump right in to your proposal. If you have to make adjustments, just have them refresh that link. It’s just a lot easier now. Your customers are in control Our customers feel like they're in control because they're putting in their own information and you're not putting it in for them. I feel like the more that they can play with their quote, the more in control they feel. Fully integrated financing The finance integration is a huge win with OpenSolar versus the Dinosaur Age, as I'll continue to reference it, because it's literally a leap forward. It’s huge, not just on the customer aspect of simplicity, but it's also huge on the sales manager standpoint too, of overseeing the cost. When we had the other program, we had a simple price per watt option. It was just like, "There's your general price per watt and just charge this." Because trying to train somebody to come in and look at this dealer fee and price, this specific price per watt, and if there's any adders, put this in here and then inflate your system cost, but not actually break it down, I mean, it was just really tough to really give accurate pricing. I think that now, since we can integrate Dividend (and Sungage, Mosaic, Sunlight) we're able to play around. The dealer fees automatically get integrated in. OpenSolar is always working with the banks to keep their systems up to date by the minute. When I have rate changes, it automatically changes in OpenSolar. Those dealer fees are already there. You're getting actual true pricing at the end of the day. You're able to actually give somebody a quote that's not just a default, for example, $4 a watt across the board for every option. You can actually give them cheaper options based upon what that dealer fee is. Up until about three or four months ago, we never had that. It was just "this is what we charge." I think with that integration, specifically, we've saved homeowners money and we're able to explain dealer fees in a way that's not scary. It's just created more honest conversations, open transparency. I think homeowners really like that, especially because we're in a world where the solar market's very saturated. We're normally up against four or five other quotes before they actually make a decision. I really train our team just to be as transparent as possible and, hopefully, that doesn't hurt the deal. Closing deals quickly and easily Closing deals faster was a big draw for us to switch to OpenSolar, like the fact that they can get from A to Z in five minutes or less. Click the button and you're done. Sign some documents and you're out of there. I think that's really important. I love the customer activity notifications too. Before OpenSolar you’d just toss some PDFs in a folder and send it off in an email, you never knew when they opened it. You never knew when they were looking at it. You never knew when they were ready to act. You just hoped that they opened it. Now that we’re on OpenSolar, I could probably count 12 to 13 deals that we closed from somebody just clicking a green ‘Apply Now’ button while we were sitting on the couch watching a cartoon with our kids. We just get alerted that, "Hey, this customer's ready to move forward." They got pre-approved and we're right over to our computer to close the deal. I mean, at the end of the day, money's great and many of us are in the industry to make money, but for me, I value balance so I can have a good quality of life. Summary If you're not using OpenSolar, you're spending a lot of tedious time doing everything else. With OpenSolar, you can pull open the app on your phone and make quick edits right then and there. You can take control and make edits right then and there. You can help sales reps directly from your phone. I've never had that before. I mean, it's been life-changing for me. Seriously, try OpenSolar. It's free, it's friendly, and it's simple.
- Reflecting on a year+ of integrated financing with Sungage on OpenSolar
Sungage’s integrated financing solution helps bridge the gap as solar sale value propositions change OpenSolar launched a partnership with Sungage Financial in the Fall of 2021 to bring an innovative integrated finance and design solution to residential solar installers across the United States. Since launch, hundreds of installers have activated the integration. The Sungage-OpenSolar integration helps installers streamline design, sales proposals, and financing applications all in one place – saving time, data re-entry, and the need to switch between multiple platforms to close a sale. A lot has changed since the launch. 2022 was a year of economic variability in the U.S., with interest rate changes, inflation, utility costs rising across the country, and a spike in mortgage rates. Meanwhile, it was also a landmark year for climate legislation with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Throughout these changes, the Sungage–OpenSolar integration remains a powerful sales tool for helping more homeowners realize their solar and energy autonomy. 2023 marks a new era of residential solar sales Economic angst and fears over a recession may give homeowners pause when considering if now is the right time to go solar or invest in energy storage. In reality, there’s never been a better time to make the switch! Why? Energy prices and utility rates continue to rise across the country. Solar and storage solutions provide energy autonomy to consumers, especially in inversely impacted markets like the Northeast, Hawaii, and Texas (and now, consumers in California impacted by NEM 3.0 changes). While the days of “0% loans” are something of the past, solar loans can still “lock in” an attractive alternative to monthly utility bills. With solar financing, customers can access consistent monthly payments, with a zero-down commitment. The solar industry continues to ride the wave of the IRA. The 30% Federal ITC is locked in for the next 10 years. Plus, there are new opportunities for solar + storage projects with the new storage investment tax credit, which now allows for standalone batteries. A powerful sales and proposal tool meets consumer-friendly and flexible financing With so much in flux on the “solar coaster,” Sungage and OpenSolar are here to help make solar installers’ lives easier. Sungage offers a wide range of flexible APRs and terms and is known for best-in-class customer service. Our team of dedicated Solar Finance Specialists (SFS) is experienced in getting projects to “notice to proceed” (NTP). Plus, they’re available to help homeowners throughout the entire financing process, from approval to energization. The Sungage–OpenSolar integration is free to all Sungage-approved installers, and getting started is easy. The integration automatically updates and manages solar loan APRs and pricing, so solar pros can be sure they’re always pulling from the most up-to-date Sungage solar loans. This helps pros focus on selling, knowing OpenSolar's back-end is doing all the compliance and entry work. With Sungage’s flexible credit application, homeowners can apply for financing in person or after a site visit with the shareable proposal feature. Once a customer is approved for financing within the OpenSolar platform, Sungage’s customer service becomes an extension of the installer partner’s team. Outlook for 2023 Despite bumps in the road, the year looks bright for residential solar and storage. Sungage and OpenSolar provide a unique combination of technological innovation and human touch – both of which are required to close a solar sale and provide a great customer experience. Providing streamlined, integrated solutions is a key priority for us at Sungage to help the solar pros we work with excel – while helping more homeowners go solar. The ongoing platform innovations we see from the OpenSolar team are impressive. Our integration provides a cost-effective option to help solar pros meet the ever-growing solar and energy storage demands of 2023 and beyond. Getting started with OpenSolar is quick, easy, and free. Sungage partners can activate financing within OpenSolar by contacting their account manager. Installers not yet partnered with Sungage can fill out this form to get started. Not using OpenSolar’s design and proposal software - offered completely free of charge? Create your account.
- Offset the effects of NEM3.0 with SolarApp+ automated permitting
With the news of NEM 3.0 legislation in CA we have a seriously negative hit to the economics of solar in the largest US market - just when we should be ramping up under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Here’s an important solution for all US installers to be aware of: SolarAPP+. SolarAPP is the new national standard digital permitting process that automates permitting, saving you thousands of dollars per install in cities that have adopted, so you can maintain the economics to the customer and build margins. We need this across the US now to de-risk net metering. The legends at CALSSA just released this great 2 pager summarizing the new CA legislation - signed into law in 2022 - with what you can do as an installer to sign up. Register for an account and get started. Not a California resident? You can bring SolarAPP+ to your jurisdiction for free. If it’s not yet available in your community, you can contact your elected officials to ask for its implementation (it’s free!). California cities have until September this year to adopt SolarAPP (smaller <50,000 resident cities have an extra year), so this can help many CA businesses lower their cost base in 2023 just as NEM 3.0 rolls out. CALSSA estimate $1-5k savings per project, but I started SolarAPP+ 5 years ago because I’ve seen lower project costs in the $10,000s from automating permitting in multiple other countries! I think this will get the cost base to well under $2 per watt in the US. And I passionately believe we deserve this easy, low-cost, fast process to make growing your install business easier. Now’s the time to make it happen! You won't even need net metering anymore. IRA + SolarAPP + OpenSolar = Massive sustainable growth for US solar. Please join CALSSA and support them with your membership dollars to help them help your city migrate quickly to help you benefit: https://calssa.org/join-calssa. Curious to learn more about how to navigate NEM3 and win? Join our upcoming live webinars to see OpenSolar's leading NEM3 and battery modeling functionality up close with our partners.
- Everyone Should Participate in the Transition to Solar
In just five short years since launch, OpenSolar has become the world’s number one choice by solar professionals for system design and selling. As a mission-driven company, it’s incumbent upon us to share some of our success with underserved communities whose lives can also benefit from the transition to clean, reliable solar energy. That’s why OpenSolar is committing 1% of our annual revenues to projects that provide solar energy to vulnerable communities worldwide. We will be working with Empowered by Light, our non-profit partner, to carry out these projects. Each year, we will choose a collection of projects to install solar and storage technologies for vulnerable communities and people living on the front lines of climate change. For 2023, we have chosen the villages of Undi and Chutika in southern Zambia, where people walk between 200 and 600 feet per trip multiple times a day to collect water from the river for crop irrigation, sanitation, and drinking. This burden severely limits crop yield and quality of life, and continually exposes community members to dangerous encounters with crocodiles and hippos. With our 1% Commitment, we are installing solar-powered water pumps, irrigation and storage facilities in order to create a safer and more prosperous environment for the people of Undi and Chutika. This video lays out the problem we’re addressing, and the impact we expect it will have. Indeed, the impact that the solar industry can have on communities like this is profound, which is why we are inviting our partners and our solar installer community to participate in our 2023 project! To our esteemed partners, we invite you to contribute to the solar electrification of the two schools and health clinics at Undi and Chutika. Your donations in money and/or hardware will be deployed by Empowered by Light, and content will be produced from those deployments that you in turn can use to communicate with your stakeholders. To our solar installer community, we invite you to donate just US$10/month to Empowered by Light. In return, you will receive a compelling new exhibit in all of your solar proposals that shows your customers that you’re a company that cares, thus building your brand and improving your sales conversion. Here’s just some of the great content that your customers will see in your proposals: As the world accelerates its transition to solar energy, we believe that nobody should be left behind. That’s why you’ll see our 1% commitment grow and grow to support communities all over the world in the years to come. Please join us.