Residential solar finance provider OneRoof Energy uses innovative strategies and partnerships to expand their financing and customer base in a competitive market.
Residential solar finance provider OneRoof Energy is doing it all. Through innovative strategies and partnerships, they’re expanding their financing and customer base in a competitive market.
PV Solar Report had a chance to meet with OneRoof CEO David Field recently to learn more.
Nontraditional solar sales agents
What’s the biggest challenge in solar today? High on the list is customer acquisition, one of the more stubborn soft costs. While researchers are investigating the issue and looking for solutions, OneRoof is taking matters into their own hands.
Field had the idea to use non-solar sales channels to forge “new paths to homeowners.” He started with roofers, who already had a relationship with homeowners. That proved successful and led to similar partnerships with others — even DirecTV salespeople, he found, can sell solar. But Field says, “the best sales agents are the ones that have a financial relationship with the homeowner, such as CPAs, real estate or insurance agents, and mortgage brokers — because this is a financial product.”
To facilitate these relationships, OneRoof has developed online training and other tools to support their nontraditional solar sales agents.
They’re going a step further this fall by building an online platform with a new partner whose business is online retail. PV Solar Report is looking forward to OneRoof announcing this partner in a couple months.
Bundling an energy suite
Another strategy that sets OneRoof apart is partnering with utilities. Noting that “utilities are not going away,” Field added that OneRoof is the “only leasing company not directly confronting utilities.” The company is partnering with GDF Suez, the world’s largest utility and the largest energy provider on the east coast. Field says this is the “first in the industry that’s a partnership, not just an investment.” More utility relationships are in the works.
An advantage of this arrangement is that it lets OneRoof offer a bundled suite to homeowners, which can include energy efficiency and other energy products.
Field’s vision of bundling doesn’t end there. Why not bundle energy with other home services, such as phone and cable? He envisions a platform like Allconnect that could include solar along with these other services. “My goal is to be the guy who built the first such platform,” Field says.
Solar as a service — leases and loans
OneRoof recently added solar loans to their offerings. Loans could be the next big thing in solar, filling a gap in the market. Leases have helped solar expand; however, some homeowners prefer to own but can’t afford the upfront costs.
With ownership, even when financed by this type of loan, a homeowner saves more on their power bill than with a lease over the life of the system. Loans also let the homeowner take any applicable tax credits. And because consumer finance companies have more experience pricing risk, a loan may not require as high a credit score as a lease.
Whether it’s a lease or a loan, OneRoof is selling a service. In this regard, their model is more like that of a utility than a traditional solar company. Field sees the company as “pricing in peace of mind. You’re not going to three guys and dealing with the hassle.”
Market consolidation and the future of solar
Field doesn’t seem worried about other companies copying the OneRoof model. “The market has room for 10 – 20 of us. It’s much like the Internet. There’s a land grab going on right now, and investors are piling into the sector. The Amazons and Googles of the world will arise; the market has to go through a flushing-out period.”
Are acquisitions for OneRoof part of that scenario? Field says, “To have real consolidation, you need a strong handful of acquirers, and there aren’t many. OneRoof is gaining that capacity.”
His advice: “Think long-term, understand where the market is going and build around that, surround yourself with large brands, and drive volume and scale.”
Though solar faces some challenges, in part because “it’s still a capital-constrained industry,” Field sees solar booming in the coming years as the industry transforms. After all, the American people want solar on their homes. As Field says, “Rooftop solar is motherhood and apple pie.”