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Comcast Pushes Rooftop Solar

Comcast, edging into the electric utility space, will help pitch Sunrun solar rooftops as part of its bold smart home offerings.

Bloomberg -- Sunrun., the residential solar company that’s boosting market-share, said it will tap a partnership with the biggest U.S. cable-TV company to add new customers.

Comcast Corp. and Sunrun agreed to a 40-month partnership after a trial showed that cable customers had interest in solar products, according to a statement Thursday. San Francisco-based Sunrun will be Comcast’s exclusive residential solar provider.

“Comcast has the install base and the marketing arm,” Lynn Jurich, Sunrun’s chief executive officer, said in an interview Thursday. “We have a product people want.”

Sunrun’s stock rose the most in two months, climbing as much as 5.5 percent and traded at $7.25 a share at 10:10 a.m. in New York. Comcast shares fell 0.4 percent to $40.48.

The partnership will help Sunrun -- which operates in 22 states -- reach a larger pool of potential customers. Comcast has about 27 million subscribers in markets that include Chicago and Philadelphia. The cable giant will advertise the solar program as an option for its XFinity Home service, which gives customers the ability to automate devices around the house, like turning lights on and off.

Comcast has been expanding into new lines of business as growth in selling cable-TV subscriptions slows. Comcast recently introduced a mobile phone service to compete with wireless offers from AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications. It’s also trying to expand its business of selling home alarm systems and TV, phone and Internet for businesses.

“Cellular and cable companies across the US and Europe have been looking at the energy market for years,” Hugh Bromley, a New York-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in an interview Thursday. “Solar is the obvious next step -- if you can convince a cable customer to sign a 20-year agreement.”

Comcast is eligible for warrants representing as much as 9.99 percent of Sunrun’s outstanding common shares under the deal. They’ll be earned pro rata only after Sunrun installs 30,000 new customers and will fully vest once Sunrun wins 60,000 new accounts.

Sunrun, the U.S.’ largest residential solar-only installer, has just under 150,000 customers, Jurich said. It expects to do 45,000 installations this year.

This is Sunrun’s third partnership with a brand-name company this year. In January, it announced that London-based utility National Grid Plc committed about $100 million to a partnership that will own about 200 megawatts of residential solar assets. It also has a partnership with Engie.


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