EDITOR’S NOTE: An Israeli entrepreneur, Amit Rosner, this month launched a new business in Massachusetts that will tap social media and surging interest in a “sharing economy” to speed deployment of solar power. We recently interviewed Rosner about his startup, Yeloha, via email.
Energy Times: What share of electricity needs can be met by solar in the foreseeable future?
Rosner: The sun could be the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050, according to reports issued by the International Energy Agency. The IEA technology roadmap show how solar photovoltaic systems could generate up to 16 percent of the world’s electricity while solar thermal electricity from concentrating solar power plants could provide an additional 11 percent.
Energy Times: What new business models will be most effective speeding deployment of solar?
Rosner: To date only a fraction of American households and small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) have gone solar. Panels and installation still require property ownership and a large upfront investment or excellent credit score - resources that many American’s don’t have. The sharing economy opens the solar market to the majority of residential and commercial customers who do not own their roofs - renters, apartment dwellers - and those whose roofs are shaded or physically unsuitable for solar. For these customers, solar sharing offers a new way to buy into solar from a separate locale, empowering consumers nationwide to contribute to the spread of clean energy while reaping the cost savings benefits.
Energy Times: There are a number of paths providing for third party ownership of solar deployed on residential customers’ homes. Explain what is unique about Yeloha’s approach.
Rosner: Yeloha aims to change the profile of a solar user from a single homeowner or SMB who only benefits themselves, to one of a “sun host” who, via the sharing economy, helps unleash the financial and environmental benefits of solar for both themselves and others – their "sun partners". By sharing solar, everyone with an electricity bill, no matter where they live, can now have the opportunity to participate in solar and save. Yeloha provides incentives to those who have a solar friendly roof - to share it. These incentives address the upfront expense of solar deployment. In exchange for hosting, homeowners receive panels, installation, and a portion of the energy generated - all free. Other residential or commercial customers who do not own their roofs or have unsuitable roofs can now become sun partners by buying into the excess energy generated by the panels on the sun host’s roof. It’s simple. There is no need for expensive solar installations nor even navigating away from their existing utility.
Energy Times: How extensive is third party ownership of solar generation on commercial and industrial properties – and do you see growth potential in that market?
Rosner: A 2014 Navigant Research study found that 40 percent of non-residential systems in California are third-party owned. We've seen similar data in other states. Yeloha welcomes opportunities for collaboration with the commercial and non-profit sectors, which have so far been widely considered “underserved” due to lack of financing.
Energy Times: You are starting your business in Massachusetts. Do you plan to be in all 50 states – and how long will it take for you to achieve that?
Rosner: Yes. The core of our business is our online platform, built to cross physical and geographic boundaries. We plan to be available in several states next year and continue to scale rapidly to keep up with demand.