Energy independence has been a hot topic in Europe, especially in the last few months. The entire continent has always been heavily reliant on foreign energy reserves – 60% of the continent’s energy needs are currently met with imports – but countries are making exact plans to wean themselves off this dependence in the near future. Germany’s plan is to reach climate neutrality by 2045, and a central pillar of that plan is to eliminate fossil fuel consumption within the country. And even though the government is still heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas, ordinary citizens are doing their part to draw less power from central grids. Some companies, like Germany’s Enpal, are giving homeowners greater access to solar power, thereby providing greater energy independence at local and national levels.
Renting the Sun
Enpal made the prestigious Financial Times 1000, a list of Europe’s Fastest-Growing Companies, coming in at #5 in Europe and the top company from Germany. The reason for their success is that they have provided solar solutions to over 14,000 private persons in recent years. Their value proposition is exceedingly simple: fight the climate crisis by saving a lot of money in the process. Their business model centres on solving the biggest barrier to entry for homeowners: high up-front costs. While solar panels end up saving homeowners money over time, it often takes years or decades for people to recoup their investments. That’s because a person wishing to install solar panels on their home would need to pay for the panels and their professional installation. It is certainly not a DIY activity. Enpal solves this problem by offering people the opportunity to rent solar panels with zero acquisition costs. As they put it: “Rent at a fixed price and use the free energy of the sun for decades – instead of paying rising electricity bills to the old energy companies.”
Despite the company’s meteoric rise – their revenue rose from 2.6 million EUR in 2017 to 316 million EUR in 2020 – they are perhaps underselling how revolutionary their service is. Because all costs are included – rental fees are dependent on the size of the house and storage – the homeowner no longer has to worry about system planning, installation, replacements of parts, maintenance, repairs, insurance, or monitoring. Thus, for any person that wants to do their part but does not want to take on a years-long project and burden, their solution is ideal. Moreover, with this rental, customers still end up saving money in the process. After renting for 20 years, customers can purchase their solar systems from Enpal for a symbolic cost of 1 EUR.
Solar is still an imperfect, intermittent technology. As with any renewable energy, it cannot consistently produce energy at all hours, and production is especially dependent on weather. That means that customers will still need to partially rely on electric grids for their energy needs. That said, Enpal’s solution is sure to catch on, and not just in Germany. According to Pew research, 92% of Americans want more solar power, and it consistently ranks as the most popular form of renewable energy. Enpal’s success in Germany is guaranteed; the only question about the company’s future is whether they can expand quickly enough internationally before someone copies their innovative rent-to-own solar model in even more lucrative markets.