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GTM Solar Summit Recap: Looking Towards a Solar-Dominated Future

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Solar energy is predicted to dominate the future. But how do we get there? And how quickly can we make it happen?

Last month, the Neurio team was down in Arizona for the Solar Summit 2019 put on by Greentech Media (GTM) and the S3 Solar Software Summit put on by GTM and Folsom Labs.

The GTM Solar Summit is a two-day conference that gathers hundreds of attendees from the solar industry to talk about the future of solar. The S3 Solar Software Summit is a newer one-day event that focuses on the growing solar software industry.

We were thrilled to join in on the discussion around the growth, challenges, and potential of the solar industry.

Here are some key themes that stood out to our team:

Adoption of the Future

As federal subsidies start to phase down, the solar industry aims to outgrow the subsidies and accelerate adoption into the mainstream.

The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is a federal tax rebate in the US that covers up to 30% of residential solar systems, making it one of the major financial incentives for US households to install solar. But the government plans to decrease the ITC over the coming years and for residential, it is projected to be phased out completely by 2022.

So an ever-present question during the summit became: How can the solar industry move past these subsidies? Right now, solar has less than 3% adoption in the US with 15% being the goal for mainstream adoption. The phase-down challenges that adoption alongside existing concerns like slow-moving utility regulations, limited financial security, and difficulties with newer solutions like community solar.

But the overall tone of the conferences was optimistic. Solar is growing at a record rate and the cost of installation is continuing to fall. The first million solar installations in the US took decades, while the second million only took three years. According to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, the number of installs is projected to double in the next five years. As the industry establishes itself, external factors, like confidence from financial institutions, are also improving.

Customer-Focused Experience

As the industry looks ahead to decreasing ITCs, the customer becomes even more important.

Solar systems introduce a new level of complexity to people’s homes, which can seem intimidating and overwhelming. Installing systems like home energy monitoring can help address that.

Home energy monitoring gives the homeowner confidence that the technology they invested in is working and making a tangible difference. Making energy consumption easier to understand is a key way to encourage people to adopt more complex systems, like solar, into their homes.

Software also has a key role in customer experience. Facilitating transparency before, during, and after the solar installation builds a crucial trust between the installer, the system, and the customer.

Importance of Software

Software in solar is still in its early stages, but its potential is powerful.

While the hardware in solar has taken centre stage, software is catching up. These programs have the potential to enable more growth, more clarity, and better control and operations of the systems. From a customer standpoint, it can unlock more savings, decrease complexity, and facilitate an easier adoption to solar.

Software is especially important in relation to energy storage. At the Solar Software Summit, one of the senior directors at Sunrun pointed out that when it comes to energy storage, metering is all important. Homeowners need accurate, real-time information to monitor and control their battery. As storage becomes a bigger part of the solar industry, building the software around it will be crucial.

As the industry matures, we are excited to see how companies like ours can make a difference in the energy industry and help homeowners make meaningful decisions about their energy.

Want to learn more about how Neurio is helping homeowners and installers understand and adopt solar energy? Reach out today, and someone on our team would be happy to chat.

Strategic Thinking for the Longtail

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Kelly Berg from Neurio sits on a panel at the California Solar Expo 2019The energy industry is advancing faster and faster every year, fuelled by exciting innovations in technology and an increasing consumer interest about where their energy comes from. So how can businesses and consumers be smart about navigating this evolving industry? This was one of many questions that were raised at a recent panel that Neurio took part in at the California Solar Power Expo in San Diego last month.

Cali SP Expo, one of Solar Power Events’ signature shows, draws a global audience of 60 exhibitors and 1,300 attendees. Our Director of Distribution Strategy, Kelly Berg, joined an impressive panel alongside Joseph Carangelo from Baker Electric Home Energy and Brian Patterson from the EMerge Alliance.

So what did the panel have to say about helping residential solar installers strategize for the future energy industry? Here are three main themes that were discussed.

Monitoring as a Customer Engagement Tool

“There’s going to be a paradigm shift in education on how visible electric management can be,” said Carangelo. “And one of the greatest tools to use is what [Neurio is doing] with energy consumption monitoring.”

Energy monitoring has become a key business tool for installers, helping them with customer acquisition, engagement, and follow-up. By making customers more aware of their energy use, even simple consumption monitoring can be a powerful pre-sale tool for installers to gain staying power with that house.

“Once people know and have visibility into the electricity that they’re producing, if they have solar, and using, they want more and more visibility,” commented Carangelo.

Even after the installation of consumption monitors or a solar energy system, energy monitoring equips installers with data to drive after-sales services.

“Monitoring is a really good entry point into getting involved with those insights and creating opportunities for yourself,” noted Berg. “The customer stays engaged with this tool, long after solar turns on. And that’s where you have opportunities to go back and add value with any other services you want to provide.”

New Opportunities in the Future of Energy

“This industry is changing very rapidly and continuing to change,” said Patterson. “So we’re really in a new age of electricity.”

During the panel, the future of energy and technology was envisioned to advance at a breakneck pace, likened to the explosion of the internet. Whether this is accurate or not, new innovations around electricity use and transmission have the potential to be game changers in the future energy market.

“Smart” energy, energy empowered by computational ability, has already become increasingly common. With the surge of smart technologies in our devices and our homes, there are more opportunities to integrate all of our devices, while collecting data on our homes to aid energy management.

Technologies like digital electricity and the rise of electric vehicles are predicted to become key factors that are going to change how consumers receive, manage, and interact with electricity. These new innovations have the power to transform the relationship between the grid, the consumers, and energy management companies.

“Overall, the energy market is moving from an equipment and toll-based system to an “energy-as-a-service” system,” noted Patterson. “And there’s a lot of opportunities in that.”

But in all of these conversations, the point was not to try and solve all of these problems by ourselves, but rather to be aware and make connections.

“My advice in all this is don’t be overwhelmed by all of the technologies or expertise or having to build your own algorithms to solve these problems,” said Berg. “If you’re asking the right questions and paying attention, there are lots of companies in the technology world that are trying to solve these problems for you. You just have to find one, get connected, and go from there.”

Strategizing in a Changing Market

“I think that’s the bottom-line message, you have a lot of choices coming in the future already. It may be bewildering sometimes the amount of choices you have in this industry and will continue to have,” said Patterson.

As the energy market evolves and expands, the panel touched on one key decision: choosing whether to stay in your current lane or to diversify.

“If you’re an installer, it doesn’t mean that you have to become an integrator or a service organization,” says Patterson. “But it does mean that you have to see how your piece fits into that puzzle, and keep your eye on the puzzle while, at the same time, focusing on improving your piece. Or you can really broaden your opportunities out and really grow your company organically. ”

Additionally, as spaces like energy, entertainment, and appliances start to integrate, making connections is an important way to stay relevant. Collaboration and partnership were emphasized as essential to strategizing in the future industry.

Overall, the future of energy is looking bright.

“It is a changing opportunity in a changing market,” said Patterson.”But it’s getting bigger, that’s the good news.”

 

Big thanks to SEIA, SEPA, and Solar Power Events for hosting the California SP Expo, including this panel. If you missed us at Cali SP Expo, catch us for Solar Power International at the North America Smart Energy Week in September.