Australia’s retail electricity market is set to have another new kid on the block – but this one is a bit different. Not only is it being set up to cater to Australia’s 1.7 million solar households, it hopes to be co-owned by them, too.
The new company, DC Power Co, has this week put out a call to solar system owners “fed up with being short changed by major energy retailers,” and offering them a chance to be a part of the solution, for an investment of just $50.
The company said on Monday that it had opened registration to 95,000 investors, promising better deals and financial bonuses for solar households, as well as the chance to be owners in the retailer, and have a say in how it’s run.
While the “social enterprise” will be for profit, it will use an entirely different business model to most retailers, where customers will be members and pay a monthly membership fee.
In return, they will get access to wholesale prices for their energy and more competitive tariffs for the solar they send back to the grid.
But DCP is not just about crunching costs at the retail end of the power supply chain. It is also geared at making sure the customer is getting maximum value from the rooftop solar they have installed.
That’s because the evidence has shown that while Australian home owners have lead the world in embracing solar PV technology, they don’t necessarily how it works, or even if it does.
As we reported here in 2016, a recent Solar Analytics investigation found that only 5-10 per cent of Australia’s solar households used monitoring technology to understand their solar usage or improve their system’s performance.
Based on that data, Solar Analytics has estimated that more than half of all the nation’s rooftop solar systems have been underperforming.
To help remedy this, DCP is offering future shareholders – as part of their $50 investment – access to a free solar performance check; advice on how to use their solar energy more efficiently and save money; and access an energy plan that will help slash power bills.
“Homeowners have done the right thing and spent money installing their solar system, but aren’t being supported in getting the best out of it,” said said co-founder and CEO Nic Frances Gilley.
“We believe a significant number of people, tens of thousands of households, don’t even realise that their system isn’t turned on or working, which means they could be losing out on about $1000 every year,” he said.
“Their power company isn’t going to tell them because they make money by selling that customer energy they don’t necessarily need.”
Gillies’ new venture – he is a seasoned “social entrepreneur who has previously helped found Easy Being Green and Cool nrg – has also received funding from ARENA, and is being backed by solar consumer advocacy group, Solar Citizens.
In return, Solar Citizens, will get $5 for For every person who takes up the offer, to put toward its campaigns to “protect the rights of solar owners and grow renewable energy in Australia.
DCP says it is hard to say precisely how much of the company will wind up being owned by “solar lovers”, but that the company’s goal is 100 000 – which would make solar “prosumers” the majority shareholder.
“Having ‘prosumers’ as shareholders, will help ensure DC Power Co. stay solar focused and aligned to what solar owners need.” the company says.
As this point, those interested in becoming a shareholder in the new retailer – and you don’t necessarily have to own your own rooftop solar system – can sign up here.
These people will then be among the first in line to invest $50 when the share offer goes live, the company website says. The offer is limited to one $560 investment per person.
If and when the company gets up and running – it is hoping this will happen by the end of 2018 – you won’t have to be a shareholder to become a member.
Similarly, Gilley says that people who miss out on a share offer can still benefit just by registering on the DCP website and having the company look at their data.
“We can advise if their system is on and working well, and suggest ways to optimise their power use,” he said.
This article was originally published on RenewEconomy’s sister site, One Step Off The Grid, which focuses on customer experience with distributed generation. To sign up to One Step’s free weekly newsletter, please click here.