Two big opportunities For US solar: Lessons from Australia

Author : 
April 15, 2021

The recent fires in Australia have been devastating with media reports focusing on the displaced residents and animals and impact from and on climate change.  Little known though is that Australia’s energy economy has undergone an astonishing transformation in recent years. Australia is now the global leader in residential solar with over 2.2 million installations and a 25% penetration rate.  Compare that to the US where SEIA has set a goal of 20% by 2030. Australia is literally 10 years ahead of the US in terms of solar.

Last December, we were invited to Melbourne to speak with the energy companies of the state of Victoria including Energy Australia,AusNet Services, and Mondo.  And what we learned was fascinating.​

Lesson #1: Residential solar O&M is in high demand

In 2001, the Australian government introduced its Renewable Energy Target. And solar took off, with the number of installations doubling every 3 years.  However, the rapid growth has also led to shoddy installations and a 30% rate of orphaned customers from solar installers with less robust business practices to say the least.  Solar installers now servicing these aging systems are finding that this is a great additional revenue stream to complement their traditional sales business.

Lesson #2: Electric companies want to own the customer relationship

In 2016, the entire Australian electricity market was deregulated, giving energy customers the ability to “choose” their own electricity provider.  This gave rise to a hyper-competitive electric retail market.  In an effort to win customers and reduce churn, these electricity retailers can no longer consider their customers “meters” or “ratepayers.”  To be competitive and differentiated, they must offer products and services that go far beyond just providing electricity. This includes selling solar via 3rd party install partners, offering their own branded solar monitoring apps, and selling energy storage and home automation devices.

It’s very likely the solar and electricity markets in the US will look like what Australia is today. In fact, California and Arizona are already starting to experience these same trends. For solar installers in the US, these two lessons could be worthwhile leveraging to get ahead in the market:

Opportunity #1:

Build out your O&M department to service aging systems and/or capture orphaned customers.  Offering maintenance plans to these customers could provide a steady stream of recurring revenue.

Opportunity #2:

Cultivate your long-term relationship with your customers and empower them with your own curated products and services, circumventing any attempt by the utilities to win back the customer relationship.

If you're interested in delivering better customer experiences with less time and energy, or you just want to know more about our work with solar companies, contact us.

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