While at PV America 2013 in Philadelphia, EnergySage stopped by our Solar Power World booth and told us about its interesting online marketplace. A follow-up phone call demonstrating how the platform works left me thinking that this linking of homeowner and solar installer is exactly what the residential solar industry needs.
Most consumers considering a solar power system do not know where to begin, and for those bold enough to request quotes from several installers, the process of comparing these options is incredibly complex and time-consuming. EnergySage removes the guesswork from the process. Its network of high-quality installation providers, in conjunction with its consumer-oriented platform, makes the process easy and fast.
“The solar shopping process can be complicated and confusing for consumers. Many ultimately give up and do nothing because they can’t be sure they’re making the right decision,” explains EnergySage CEO Vikram Aggarwal. “The EnergySage Solar Marketplace is designed to simplify this process and add much needed transparency. This is an important financial as well as environmental decision and the Marketplace gives consumers the information and insight they need to make the right decision for their own specific needs.”
Basically, the online marketplace is free for those interested in perhaps installing solar on their home. Even if the homeowner doesn’t know anything about solar, or isn’t even sure they want to install it on their home, the site is useful resource for researching and seeing case studies of how other people in their area have gone solar. The site also includes robust educational content; real-life case studies with pictures and financial details; and installer and product profiles with ratings and reviews.
Once prospective consumers decide they want to go solar, they can solicit and receive multiple quotes from a pre-screened network of pre-screened solar installers. The quotes, presented in a clear, apples-to-apples format, highlight key metrics and are supported by easy-to-use decision-making tools. By reducing the soft costs associated with solar sales and marketing efforts, the site delivers financial benefits to consumers, solar installers and financiers.
This is no sketchy startup either. The platform’s development was funded in part by a U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Award in June 2012. Initially, the Solar Marketplace is focused on the Northeastern United States, and will roll out rapidly to additional markets.
Similar to websites such as Expedia, the site is free for consumers while providers pay a small commission for new business received through the site. The Solar Marketplace consolidates the available purchase and financing options into a single online market that includes everything from zero-cost leasing to debt financing and outright purchases.
“The market has evolved to offer consumers an extensive set of innovative financing choices,” says Aggarwal. “The Marketplace helps consumers evaluate multiple options and determine the one that makes the most sense for their particular financial situation.”
The EnergySage solar installer and financing network is made up of pre-screened, high-quality providers. EnergySage delivers value by targeting “soft costs” such as high sales and marketing expenses, which limit profitability, keep prices high, and slow market growth.
“Providers are spending an incredible amount of time and money in their efforts to acquire new customers. EnergySage drives these costs down by facilitating a more efficient sales process,” said John Gingrich, Head of Corporate Development at EnergySage. “The information and transparency EnergySage brings to the shopping process helps consumers make faster, more confident decisions.”
Additionally, sustainability-focused organizations—including government, non-profits, and employers who are promoting solar and other clean energy options—will be able to leverage the platform to support their own efforts. The platform makes it easier and more cost-efficient for them to promote sustainability, educate their audience, provide them with a larger variety of choices, and ultimately help them to choose the system, installer, and financing option that will provide them with most value.
“Evaluating and investing in a solar power system should be as easy as buying any other home appliance,” says Aggarwal. “We believe that the ease and transparency that the EnergySage Marketplace brings to the solar shopping process is a significant step toward achieving our ultimate goal of clean energy systems at every home, business and non-profit.”