US rooftop solar developer Sungevity is set to receive $70 million from a group of investors that includes one of the world’s largest investor-owned utilities – Germany’s E.ON – in a move that has described as potentially pivotal for the solar PV industry, and for the future shape of the power industry.
Based in California, Sungevity provides free online quotes to households considering a shift to solar, as well as rooftop solar systems at little to no upfront cost. Last year, the company saw its US sales double and it recently opened up a new office in Australia, where it will use some of the funds.
The $70 million funding round, announced last week, marks the largest investment by a power company in a solar upstart, the company said. As well as E.ON, the group behind it includes GE Ventures – the investment arm of US conglomerate General Electric, which initially invested in the company in July 2013.
“It could be a pivotal moment in the solar industry when you see one of the great utilities make an investment like this after years of centralized energy,” Sungevity CEO Andrew Birch said, in a nod to the involvement E.ON.
The investment by E.ON comes as another major German utility, RWE, confirmed it was looking to change its business model from a focus on centralised generation such as coal and nuclear, to distributed energy.
“My dream, my vision is that RWE will put solar panels on your roof, a battery in your shed, a heat pump in your cellar, and we will also manage this complex energy system for you,” CEO Peter Terium said in an interview with Energy Post. “We want to be the holistic energy manager of the future.”
Sungevity now has raised more than $200 million. About two-thirds of the company’s business is in the US, where sales doubled last year. The company says it will use the new funds to expand its rooftop solar leasing business in Europe and Australia, as well as to improve its online customer-acquisition service.