In yet more signs that Australia’s big power utilities are getting with the program on solar, reports have emerged that Origin Energy is set to launch a no-money-down, pay-as-you-go rooftop solar package for households and small business.
The launch of the new solar offer, reportedly planned for the new year, follows a series of tests by Origin Energy among the utility’s staff and friends in Brisbane, and will be part of a suite of new rooftop solar products on offer in 2015.
Origin Energy’s chief executive of energy markets, Frank Calabria, says removing the capital investment up front – a model that has been hugely successful in the US – will change the relationship between the utility and its customers.
Origin Energy refused to elaborate on their interview with the AFR, now would they put a time-frame on the initiative beyond early 2015, or comment on whether it would incorporate storage and electric vehicles.
It will no doubt have a ripple effect on the overall energy market, too, putting pressure on other big electricity generators and distributors to come to the solar party.
As Enphase CEO Paul Nahi put it in an interview with RenewEconomy last week, while traditional power utilities tend to move glacially, the world’s energy markets are undergoing a rapid and seismic shift.
“The energy industry is going to change more in the next 10 years than it has in the past 100,” Nahi said.
“Solar is growing as fast as it is because it is a cheaper, cleaner alternative. And the dynamics behind that are doing nothing but getting better.”
Sooner or later, he added, “utilities will need embrace solar, and recognise that in some cases, business models will need to change.”
Part of this seismic energy industry shift will see the introduction of battery storage and management systems, such as that which Enphase is set to pilot in Australian next year.
If Origin – which has installed about 80,000 solar PV systems in Australia and has 400,000 customers with rooftop solar – can keep a stake in future customers’ PV systems through a pay-as-you-go offer, then they can on-sell those customers energy storage further down the line.
This would help stabilise the grid while being a part of the increased penetration of solar – which, as we know, is happening with or without the cooperation of utilities or policy incentives.