Opower Eyeing The Community Solar Market

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Opower — up until now a software-as-a-service company that partners with utilities around the world to promote energy efficiency — is now eyeing the distributed solar energy market as well, according to a recent announcement.

The announcement comes on the heels of the company’s successful release of its fifth-generation software for utilities earlier this year.

Image Credit: Opower

The specifics aren’t yet clear, except that Opower has stated that it would use “its behavioral science techniques to target customers and help utilities sell solar services or other forms of distributed generation.”

Opower’s CEO, Dan Yates, explained the reasoning behind the move: “This is rippling across the country, and we don’t think it’s fair to cut utilities out from saving themselves against the competition. We’re looking at ways of pursuing the management of community solar.”

Greentech Media provides more:

In an interview with Greentech Media at the Grid Edge Live conference on Tuesday, Yates described a possible strategy. Although the company has not yet solidified any specific solar offerings, Yates said he was interested in using Opower’s “customer care automation” platform to help utilities sell shares in community solar programs and run the billing process.

Yates stressed that Opower had not closed any deals or developed a targeted strategy to run community solar, but said he was “having conversations” with utilities about being involved in the process. He pointed to the emergence of community-scale solar in Colorado and other states as a way for power companies to offer customers an equity stake in solar projects while potentially avoiding net metering.

“We’re looking at ways to get beyond the conflicts over net metering,” Yates continued.

The ultimate goal, according to Yates, is to facilitate better interactions between power utilities and customers — it doesn’t matter whether that goal is achieved via energy efficiency, distributed solar generation, or demand response, he noted.

“We have an opportunity to be the utility’s innovative partner with respect to all things customer.”

Commenting on the future of the industry, Yates continued: “Utilities have to be able to move with their regulators toward a world where they can offer distributed generation, whether it be community solar or rooftop solar. That’s the whole panoply of offerings we see coming down the pike.”

Probably true. The industry/market certainly looks set for some big changes in the coming years.

If you’re an Opower fan, be sure to also check out its smartphone app.

In related news, distributed renewable energy is currently taking some heat from many of the country’s larger utilities, with said utilities pushing hard for legislation to limit its spread.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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