Removing Friction in Solar Installation for C&I EnvironmentsBy Cas Biekmann | Thu, 10/07/2021 - 15:11
Q: How has Bright developed its operations over the past year in the energy sector?
A: It has been a very interesting year. In some ways, the pandemic has accelerated the transformation of our customer base to one that is willing to build trust digitally. This move has allowed us to make our sales process much more efficient, resulting in cost savings that we can then pass on to our clients, while attracting more customers. It’s a domino effect. For instance, clients are now comfortable meeting representatives over a video call and submitting documents online because they see the value in the savings we provide them by doing it this way. We have been able to nearly double our residential portfolio over the past year.
Q: How is Bright working to expand its portfolio outside of its strong residential experience?
A: A year ago, we adapted our offering to the commercial and industrial (C&I) segment, which consumes much more electricity than our initial market of high-end homes. Since this move, we have been experiencing explosive growth. There are also challenges in this new segment because it is a new customer base with different underwriting processes. Nevertheless, we are working to provide the same frictionless, highly automated customer experience.
For C&I, the solution itself is not so dissimilar. We still use the same inverters for C&I clients and we can secure preferential pricing and achieve the cost-efficiency our clients require. However, the sales cycle differs because there are many more decision-makers and the design aspects also vary because of the many types of roofs available. As a result, our process for the design of installations had to change. In residential solar, we could remotely remove the friction in the design process. For C&I, this would be impossible without seeing the site in person.
Q: How are you seeing demand for storage evolve in Mexico’s solar market?
A: We are seeing indications that customers want to pay for storage but the regulatory framework to really promote storage does not exist in Mexico. This is holding back its adoption in the C&I environment. But after the blackouts of early 2021, consumers are valuing reliability more than they did initially and they are willing to pay for it as well. We have done some pilots with our partners in Northern Mexico and we think that storage will take off in the next five years. It is still early days when it comes to storage in Mexico.
Furthermore, storage has a different value proposition that generally accrues to the benefits utilities want to achieve but the advantages are less diverse for residential and C&I users. If they are to benefit, frequency regulation and other ancillary services should be valued properly. Storage in the right locations can also alleviate transmission and distribution issues so that new lines can be constructed approximately five years later than needed. Small energy users do not really benefit from this; however, utilities do.
Q: What is the company doing to further improve its models and processes through standardization?
A: Bright works to standardize its models as much as possible so that we can then pass on the savings and efficiency to the customer. Ultimately, what we have found is that customers truly value savings and a frictionless process. This is the same for residential and C&I end-users. The more we can standardize and invest in software for our product, the better our value proposition is.
Q: How is Bright using hardware in its mission to standardize its growing asset portfolio?
A: In terms of hardware, we use high-wattage 455W solar panels for our installations, always using one type of solar panel at a time. In terms of inverters, we prefer micro-inverters for residential and C&I applications. Micro-inverters allow micro-optimization for each panel and enhance power production based on shading and tilting, which central inverters cannot do. Their costs have gone down significantly in recent years, even more so than modules.
Q: What qualities does Bright look for in its third-party installer network?
A: We look for two factors. First of all, a technological orientation is crucial because we consider ourselves to be a technology company and seek a similar ethos in our partners. Otherwise, it would be difficult for the installer to use our software and provide a good customer experience. The second factor is coachability, which is important to achieve growth in both companies. In addition, we look for the same skills when hiring our own employees. If we sync up well with our partners, we can get more business and provide them with more work.
Q: What are the growth objectives the company has set for itself in the near term?
A: Our residential business is on track to more than double in the coming years. Since C&I is new for Bright, I believe it will lead to much greater growth. In general, we think that C&I will become the strong majority of our business in about two years. Depending on how energy is subsidized for residential energy users on the side of higher consumption, residential systems could still grow a great deal in popularity.
Bright is involved in the installation of solar panels for distributed generation but approaches it as a software company. Its ultimate goal is to use solar energy as a tool for development in all corners of the world.