Sungevity, the fifth-largest distributed solar installer in the U.S., has been confirmed as the partner in a collaboration with a leading European solar company.
Electrabel, the Belgian unit of French utility Engie, confirmed on Tuesday that it will work with the U.S. installer on a nationwide project to boost residential solar adoption rates across the country.
Based in California, Sungevity was quick to embrace European expansion opportunities following its emergence. In 2014 the firm teamed up with E.ON Benelux to offer turnkey solar enery service solutions to customers in the Netherlands having earlier entered into a joint venture with Zonline in 2011.
Last year, E.ON said it would utilize Sungevity’s software solutions to better plan and manage large-scale PV plants in Germany.
This latest partnership follows Sungevity’s decision to go public in June in a $357 million deal.
According to Electrabel’s parent company Engie, Belgium’s Wallonia region in the country’s south is prime territory for residential solar. The utility has calculated that the average household could earn a 17% return-on-investment (ROI) on a typical rooftop array. In the Flemish region in the north, solar customers currently have to pay a €300 annual grid connection fee. The Flemish government also offers no solar subsidies.
Electrabel believes that a typical array in the north could still generate annual bill savings of around €500 per year, and an ROI of 11%. Belgium used to have a generous FIT, which drove more than 100,000 rooftop solar installation in 2011, leading to cumulative capacity reaching 2.6 GW by 2013. However, since severe FIT cuts were introduced in 2014, new installation figures fell below 10,000 per year.
However, as costs to install solar have tumbled since then, a return to modest residential growth in Belgium and other post-subsidy solar markets in Europe could be on the cards as utilities embrace the potential of renewables, said Alexandre Roesch of SolarPower Europe.
“The utilities have a strong customer base, the solar companies have the technical competencies, and we expect these types of partnerships to develop,” he told Reuters.
Following the Belgian FIT cuts, many local installation companies went bankrupt, leaving a vacuum for a larger player such as Sungevity to move in, via such a partnership with a large utility such as Engie.
Belgium’s solar market is expected to grow by approximately 250 MW this year, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).