The problem with solar's online marketplace

In theory, a specialized platform where consumers looking for a certain type of product or service can research, compare, and even buy it is a no-brainer. Like Amazon or Etsy, it is likely to be your first port of call.

The same can be said for solar, but EnergySage in particular has unintentionally created problems in the solar market.

From the consumer's perspective, it provides all the information you could want about your pending solar project. From a range of local installers, to the quality of equipment they'll use, to the kind of loans available, it's a one-stop shop. 

But it so often overlooks a critical element: project developers aren't installing your system at cost. They have overheads. And setting cost expectations too low is now hurting the energy storage industry, just like it has done to solar. 

In practice, this means buyers become disillusioned when they are quoted reasonable prices, and the quality of service is therefore more likely to drop if only those willing to do business at basement prices are going to engage. Your local electrician may have the capacity to perform the work for a desirable price, but does he have the time to take care of all the paperwork? Or to perform reliable after care? For current battery projects, it's not unusual for our admin team to spend 20-40 hours per rebate application. Without the resources, you can't handle this properly. So who suffers?

This is relevant again to us now as the same patterns are emerging in the storage market. EnergySage created a race to the bottom for solar, but having seen similar complaints from fellow developers arise now with batteries, it feels like time to step back in and voice concern. 

Evidently, this isn't to say that EnergySage is without merit and, in intent, it is a friend to the industry. But if experienced developers would rather stay away, then it should be discussed, for the sake of consumers and the industry, and energy storage is too important in pushing renewable energy forward and achieving all the targets we have set ourselves to be laissez faire. 

So what should happen? Firstly, we need business owners, organizational leaders, and property owners to embrace energy storage. It's here, it's happening, and it's a game-changer. Secondly, as a consumer, ask for referrals. Use these marketplaces for research, but find people happy with their purchase and start there. There's a lot of happy customers out there!