Solar as a Service

The solar as a service (SOaaS) segment is experiencing a transformation as the global solar market continues to evolve. SOaaS is a recent phenomenon that has emerged within the distributed solar PV market space. Companies like Vivint, Sunrun, and SolarCity provide SOaaS offerings to enable customers to either finance the cost of the system or just buy the electricity. These offerings range from utilities’ green or solar tariffs to solar service agreements in which the service provider only offers operations and maintenance services to a solar owner.

SOaaS offerings were launched primarily by Sunrun and SolarCity in the late 2000s and were popularized between 2010 and 2015. Until 2014, it seemed that solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) were going to be the winning business model in the SOaaS industry. But in 2015, the market share of solar leases and PPAs in California, which itself represents around 60% of the US market, plunged to under 50%. This decline forced traditional SOaaS players like SolarCity, Sunrun, Vivint, and SunPower to consider joining financial players and offer loans instead of leases or face losing market share in the United States. SOaaS providers should focus on unlocking value otherwise unavailable to customers, as this creates a win-win situation for solar service players. To survive, solar leasing and PPA providers could transform into virtual power plant (VPP) providers and benefit from the new revenue streams.

This Navigant Research report analyzes the different business models for SOaaS providers. The study examines the weaknesses of the various current business models and suggests a more sustainable model that the industry could adopt worldwide. SOaaS contract options are discussed, with a focus on models that will enable SOaaS providers to remain competitive in a changing solar energy environment.

Key Questions Addressed:
  • What is solar as a service (SOaaS)?
  • What are the main business models for SOaaS offerings?
  • How are SOaaS offerings evolving and how are they affecting the solar PV market?
  • What are the differences between the most common types of SOaaS contracts?
  • What are the main weaknesses of SOaaS offerings?
  • How do virtual power plants (VPPs) maximize value for all the stakeholders in SOaaS contracts?
  • How can SOaaS providers evolve?
Who needs this report?
  • Solar developers and installers
  • Renewables integration hardware and software providers
  • Solar loan providers
  • Commercial power users
  • Government agencies
  • Non-governmental organizations
  • Investor community

Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary

2. Market Update

2.1   General Contract Structure

2.1.1   SOaaS Contract Variations

2.2   Market Trends

2.2.1   Expansion of SOaaS

2.2.2   Shifting Strategies

2.3   From Leases and PPAs to Loan + Service

2.3.1   Aggregation as a Way to Unlock Value

2.3.2   Case Study: Sunverge’s Cloud-Based Solar Integration System and PowerStream Pilot

3. Conclusions and Recommendations

3.1   Adding Value to Solar Installations

3.2   From Selling Energy to System Management

List of Charts and Figures

  • Third-Party Ownership Market Share, California: 2005-1H 2016
  • SolarCity Solar Lease Structure
  • The Enernet: VPPs, Nanogrids, and Microgrids
  • PowerStream Pilot

List of Tables

  • Solar as a Service Contract Variations
  • Lexicon of DER Business Models

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