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Published on August 20th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor

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SunPower To Experiment With Solar Leasing In Australia

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August 20th, 2014 by  

RenewEconomy.
By Sophie Vorrath.

Australian households looking to install rooftop solar could soon have a new no-money down financing option at their disposal, after the launch a pilot solar leasing program by SunPower in Melbourne this week.

In the latest PV leasing offering to test the water in Australia, the Nasdaq-listed solar company will install its solar panels on suitable metropolitan Melbourne rooftops at no upfront cost, offering instead a predetermined monthly payment for 25 years.

The SunPower Choice program locks in solar electricity rates for the life of the lease, and offers a money-back guarantee on the amount of solar the installation will produce annually. Free monitoring and maintenance is also provided for the length of the agreement.

At the end of the 25 years, homeowners will have the option to purchase the system outright, or extend the lease. The lease can also be cut short at any point and the system removed for a fee.

In an interview on Tuesday with RenewEconomy, director of solar ESP for SunPower Australia Kevin Whelan said the California-based company was confident about the prospects of the Melbourne pilot, regardless of the latest gloomy update on the fate of Australia’s renewables policy.

“We’re really excited about the trial,” Whelan said. “We’ve had great success with (solar leasing) in the US, and we think we can replicate that success here in Australia.”

And while Whelan conceded it was “unfortunate” to hear the latest reports around the RET, he noted that this kind uncertainty around policy and power prices was part of SunPower’s motivation for offering their leasing product here.

“Our program gives a certainty about the cost of energy when there is uncertainty with everything else,” Whelan said. “Irrespective of what happens with the RET, it gives rooftop solar customers long-term certainty on their electricity prices.”

Along these lines of logic, SunPower is also set to launch a separate pilot program in Australia testing the market demand for solar with storage, in a program likely to be rolled out through its partly owned local retailer Diamond Energy. It is also looking at microgrid solutions in Australia, although it sees the biggest potential in the commercial rooftop market.

SunPower, which also offers cash and loan programs for rooftop solar customers in Australia, says the rooftop solar leasing pilot program further reinforces its commitment to the Australian market.

It also follows on from the US company’s successful residential lease program in its home country which, launched at the end of 2011, soon claimed one-third of the Californian market – the nation’s biggest – and within a year was signing up deals at a rate of 2MW a week.sunpower-home-installation

“The residential lease value proposition is compelling. Homeowners can purchase the best solar technology in the industry and be cash-flow positive from day 1,” CEO Tom Werner told analysts in a conference call in late 2012.

As for the Australian market, SunPower CEO Tom Werner recently described it is one of the most attractive in the world, with its combination of good sun, open spaces, and high electricity costs.

sunpower werner“Solar makes sense here,” Werner said in an interview in Sydney with RenewEconomy. “The economics of solar work better in Australia than in most places in America,” where the long-term trend in solar is clear because the economics are also so strong.

“The horse is out of the barn already in the US … and it is the same thing here. It is hard to put the genie back into the bottle. People want solar and it is economic, so it is going to happen. The question is how do you get there?”

Local PV start-up Kudos Energy also sees a big future for Australia in solar leasing, with recent predictions the residential and commercial sectors could reach $100 billion in the next decade – although Kudos founder David Jones did stress that this would rely on the renewable energy target, and the continuation of the small-scale component.

And WA grid operator IMO recently predicted that 75 per cent of the state’s detached and semi-detached homes and 90 per cent of commercial businesses could have rooftop solar within a decade.

Source: RenewEconomy. Reproduced with permission.

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  • inductancereluctance

    Ah, Australia. The next guinea pig. Hopefully, you’ll be smarter than the Americans. It cost far less to own a system than it does to lease one. Don’t be fooled.

  • Brian

    Yes, the Lease is better than getting power from the dirty electric utility, and it is cheaper than buying your power from the electric utility that keeps raising rates, but it is cheaper to buy the system. Since the price of solar has dropped so dramatically, we need lenders offering low cost loans to consumers, or institute the PACE program, in Australia, and add the system cost to the property tax. It is much better and cheaper to buy a solar power system for your home, than lock in and become a slave to a solar leasing company for 25 years, and only get a small discount on your power bill each month. After 10 years your system is paid off, and you have free energy, versus a lease where you must pay for 25 years. Buying a solar power system is better.

    • DGW

      Paying for a car in cash is also the cheapest path, but that’s beyond the reach of most people.
      Saving some money while helping the environment should be a simple choice and leasing a system that requires no maintenance hassles only becomes that more viable considering most families live nearly paycheck to paycheck.
      Whatever methods that replace fossil fuel is valid and needs encouragement.

      • inductancereluctance

        Who needs cash to buy a solar system. You solar lease salesmen always fail to mention $0 down FHA solar loans that offer tax deductible interest. Solar leases and PPAs don’t offer tax deductible interest, and the leasing company collects the 30% federal tax credit and any available cash rebate.

        “Saving some money” why don’t you say it like it is. Like it is advertised on all of the solar lease/PPA websites. !0% to 15%, that’s it. I could switch out my light bulbs and save 10% to 15% on my electric bill without being locked into a 20 year solar lease with escalating payments.

        And as for no maintenance, what maintenance ? That’s another joke that you solar lease salespeople pull on your clients because there is no maintenance on a modern grid tie solar system. And as for repairs, that’s covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. Besides you’ll pay so much more (more than twice more) for that solar lease when compared to buying a system, that it’s actually you, who will be paying,….No, overpaying, for your own repairs, not the leasing company. Solar leases and PPAs are nothing more than a scam.

        • Bob_Wallace

          And one could both change out their light bulbs and lease a solar system.

          You are as dishonest as you accuse the solar lease salespeople of being.

          Yes, people could probably save more by purchasing rather than leasing. Why don’t you try selling your product truthfully?

          • inductancereluctance

            Thanks for agreeing with me. “people could probably save more by purchasing rather than leasing.” Looks like your outnumbered this time Bob. See Brian’s post. So now who’s being dishonest ? Give it up Bob. Solar leases and PPAs are bad news for consumers.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I have never said that leases save people more money than purchasing. Purchasing probably saves more money than leasing.

            What I’m pointing out is the dishonesty in your sales pitches.

          • inductancereluctance

            My alleged “dishonesty” is just your unqualified opinion. An opinion, by the way that more and more consumers disagree with, as evidenced by the growing number of consumers who are now choosing loans over leases.

            What I’m pointing out is the dishonesty in the majority of your posts that deal with the subject of leasing. And that’s my opinion Bob.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Please point out a single dishonesty on my part.

          • inductancereluctance

            Yes, that’s an easy one. When you stated “What I’m pointing out is the dishonesty in your sales pitches.”

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sorry. Your sales pitch is full of dishonesty.

          • inductancereluctance

            Sorry, you are full of dishonesty and like a paid shill for the leasing companies, you are obsessed with the goal of suppressing the truth about PV ownership.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We’re going to stop this discussion here.

            Any further dishonest claims by you will be taken down.

          • inductancereluctance

            Go right ahead. Take all my comments down now Bob. Your threat of censorship is what gives communist governments around the world a bad name.

            The freedom to voice one’s opinion is what makes this country great. Let the people decide. If you don’t like this fact then you should move Bob. Russia or China might make a great new home for you.

            Go ahead Bob, have fun. But remember this, you may take my comments down but, you will never stop me from voicing my opinion that leases are nothing but a scam.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Quit acting like a child.

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