By Jonathan Doochin, Soligent CEO
There are five trends emerging when looking at the residential solar and renewable market: soaring storage demand & resiliency, green policy shifts, software and hardware advancements, positive economics, and investor fervor. I would like to break these down a bit to highlight why each is so important to what will emerge.
1. Soaring Storage & Resiliency Demand: With Tesla home storage backlogged, and Enphase almost sold out on Q3 storage plus projections of 10% attachment in Q4 (compared to 0% in Q2), the homeowner conversation has shifted from solar to a solar + storage (resiliency based) solution. Homeowners want to know that they are safe at home during wildfires, power outages, or even just COVID-19 lockdowns. With falling storage prices and the storage software systems providing cost-saving services, homeowners can save substantial amounts of money with these bundled solutions whereas they couldn’t in the past. Homes no longer need to be tied to electrical grids to have energy security.
2. Green Policy Shifts: With the potential of a new COVID-19 package, and after coal and oil have received some support, policymakers are considering providing further incentives for solar and storage. In the case that Joe Biden is elected President and that he continues his focus on clean energy as a core part of the campaign, the landscape for policy could shift to further support renewables and further turn the U.S. into an epicenter of rapid renewable energy deployment and green job growth.
3. Software & Hardware Evolution: With the evolution of software that allows for homes to strategically put power onto the electrical grid at the exact right time, additional economic models are emerging. Today’s software enabled battery systems can peak load shave and provide time of use cost reductions that essentially lower the cost of a homeowner’s power by regulating and trading electricity when costs are high or low. Solar plus storage software-enabled homes are capable of producing and storing power without the grid during power outages or just as an additional savings opportunity when utility rates are the highest. Homeowners are getting the luxury of what was previously unaffordable to many while saving money. The same software is connecting the home and all appliances. In turn, this is driving the evolution of, and entry point to, the smart home.
B2C and B2B customer acquisition and support software are quickly evolving and maturing for not just the energy sector but many B2C sectors. This trend reduces the cost and friction of purchasing a new solar + storage home automation system while increasing scalability. The now software intertwined hardware is seeing the same technology and cost evolutions.
4. Positive Economics: In world markets, scaled solar is the lowest cost of power (beyond coal, nuclear, or natural gas). With the price of solar and storage falling 20%+ per year based on technology evolution, economies of scale, and economies of scope, the world, and the U.S. are continuing to see the lowest cost of energy with new rock bottoms hit each year. The cost of power is moving asymptotically towards zero over time. For residential solar and storage, there have been and continue to be substantial technological advancements that allow homeowners to receive a substantially larger advantage while paying less. Software advancements are enabling the full connectivity of home appliances and offering the homeowner a full smart home solution at similar savings to yesterday’s solar solution. Meanwhile, installers are driving revenue by selling larger equipment solutions and service bundles. These same larger bundles continue to add value for homeowners while saving them money. As such, the total cost of customer acquisition for an installer is now spread out over a larger purchase, which drives down the “cost per watt” of customer acquisition, and drives up the profitability of a customer, spurring further industry growth. With COVID-19, new customer acquisitions had initially declined with the door-to-door sales model, but customer acquisition has since accelerated with the transition to a scalable digital lead generation model.
5. Investor Fervor: Investors have caught on to the trend in solar and renewable energy. Today it is easy to see the cost of solar and renewables at below coal and nuclear. As the industry matures, trends of profitability and future growth potential are becoming more visible through players like Enphase Energy or SolarEdge in their large valuations.
With government intervention in the marketplace, cash has become less valued and equities are seeing large growth as cash flows into them. Economics, macro trends, technology advancements, and policy decisions have appeared to help support the renewable sector.
Sustainability has become a prominent and emerging theme from fashion, to health, and to renewables. COVID-19 has only solidified this transformation. Resiliency has become a big part of the emerging sustainability theme, especially post-pandemic. Investors have realized that technology continues to dominate the world and what better space to focus on the intersection of infrastructure and technology, than the solar industry.
As these trends play out, expect to see a substantial growth rate in home renewable energy, resiliency and automation. More so, a lower cost of home automation and energy solutions as well as customer acquisition costs that help drive growth. Investor dollars need a home that is not in large USD cash stores and high growth technology-based infrastructure industries like renewables will become a logical focal point.