A key strategy in selling solar to anyone—a homeowner, business or otherwise—is showing prospective customers how much money they could save on their electric bills by making the switch. However, getting that data is often complicated by having to search for paper copies of prior bill statements. Even if homeowners and business owners can locate them, utility data is often complicated and varies greatly from one utility to the next, said Matt Kuo, VP of products at Urjanet.
Urjanet aims to simplify the utility data gathering experience. The company sources electricity data directly from 809 utilities in the United States with customer permission. Its API integration allows installers, software providers, solar marketplaces and more to add the software service to any website for a fee.
“Often, you’re not finding the most recent bill, it’s a bill that’s not associated with the specific location, they can’t find one, and so in many cases this is a much more holistic way to get not only one bill, but up to 12 months of history that we can provide, so that installers can get a holistic picture of what the energy consumption for that location was, and be able to calculate a proposal and a very accurate ROI,” Kuo said.
Urjanet offers its API as a subscription service to companies. It prices the API differently based on the number of data requests and the type of data a company is looking for, whether it’s just the last energy bill or the past 12 months of bills. The company’s installer customers are usually mid- to large-sized.
Urjanet saw a need to standardize utility datasets so installers and other customers can easily translate the numbers into proposals for prospective solar buyers.
“We’re really focused on being able to go and get that data, normalize it and then provide it to our customers in a way that makes sense for them, either through a standard delivery file or via APIs,” said Kuo.
The Urjanet data collection process usually looks like this—a solar company sends an email to a prospect, the prospect opens the email link and lands on a webpage that contains the Urjanet login credential form, the prospect then submits their electric utility login credentials via the secure form, then Urjanet accesses the data and delivers it back to the solar company.
Sometimes Urjanet instead obtains a letter of authorization to present to a utility to collect customer data, but that process requires more manual labor and isn’t the company’s primary method.
“[Utilities] are very willing to work with us because we are helping their customers and that data is their customers’ data, not their data,” Kuo said.
Using Urjanet’s platform is also more secure than giving utility login credentials directly to an installer or other company, said Sarah Arvin, chief marketing officer for Urjanet.
“An individual contractor could ask a consumer, ‘Hey, what’s your Georgia Power login information,’ but a consumer doesn’t want to give that away to just any old person,” Arvin said.
In addition to solar installers, Urjanet’s customers include solar marketplaces, software companies and any companies looking to capture the cost benefit of going solar for prospective customers.
Urjanet found that many other online-generated solar quote proposals were based on averages in the geographic area. Kuo said Urjanet allows its customers to generate proposals based on actuals.
“So you can actually get down to that detailed ROI analysis and what the payback period would be for an installation,” Kuo said. “There’s a lot of power in that”
The company recently surveyed more than 200 U.S. homeowners who are currently considering, or may seriously consider, installing rooftop solar panels. It found 61% of respondents consider having an accurate price estimate to be the most important factor in their choice of installer, ahead of data security and well ahead of self-service options. 56% of respondents said they’re willing to directly link their online utility account to receive a faster or more accurate cost estimate for their solar panel installation.
Arvin said Urjanet’s mission was validated by its survey. The company plans to keep expanding to include even more utility data across the United States to help installers sell solar and consumers see the actual cost benefit of going green.