Accelerating the pace and scale of roof top solar power’s market penetration is Jack Hidary’s mission. Hidary comes to this ambitious goal with a background of success as cofounder of start-ups Vista Research and Dice.com. His plan for putting solar on America’s roofs is based upon creating of an unprecedented amount of financing while also cutting costs out of the sales/installation process to enhance solar power’s cost competitiveness.
Hidary’s financing focus is on PACE which stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy. PACE is a program where a city borrows money to lend to property owners for investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Loaned funds are paid back over 20 years through property tax payments. The program started in California and through the efforts of Hidary and the PaceNOW coalition it is now allowed in 15 states. “PACE holds the potential of financing $400 billion of property improvements tied to energy efficiency and solar over the next 10 years compared to the $6.5 billion budgeted in the current Federal stimulus package,” Hidary proclaims. “That’s both the pace and scale required to produce a meaningful improvement in our country’s economy and our environment.”
His other path for achieving pace and scale is his new company called GlobalSolarCenter.com. “Removing points of friction has been a key to our business success,” Hidary explains. From Hidary’s perspective the current model of selling and installing a solar system is hugely inefficient. “What is needed to accelerate roof top solar purchases is a 1-800flowers.com-like solution,” Hidary says. His proposed model works like this:
- Web Based Sales Leads
A customer types into the GlobalSolarCenter.com site his address and a satellite picture of his home comes up on his computer screen. The customer types in his monthly electric bill receives a preliminary cost/benefit estimate. If the customer hits “Yes” a request for a sales call is sent to a roof top solar company within the GlobalSolarCenter.com national network. “Just like FTD,” Hidary explains.
- Online Sales Management Tool
GlobalSolarCenter.com cuts sales costs by providing installers with pre-qualified customer leads. Today, solar companies face a high cost of sales because only a small fraction of sales calls ever produce an actual sale. The GlobalSolarCenter.com process targets making the sales process more efficient by generating prequalified leads and then providing Customer Relationship Management tools.
- “eBay” B2B Technology Procurement
Hidary also points to inefficiencies in the technology procurement process among installers. Some installers only sell one manufacturer’s technology or only PV or thin-film but not both. GlobalSolarCenter.com offers a design and B2B procurement service that allows installers to model a range of technology and vendor solutions to find the combination that is a best fit for their customer. The installer can buy the technology solution in an “eBay-like” group purchase that affords quantity discounts.
What is exciting about Hidary’s vision for GlobalSolarCenter.com and PACE is the potential it holds for achieving “aligning value with values” market penetration. Market research continues to document that being green is not enough to grow sales. Especially in this recession the customer demands both a competitive price and meaningful results. PACE offers a financing path that will allow customers to buy solar with zero down, with no impacts upon their credit and a monthly property tax payment that is competitive with the cost of grid supplied electricity. And ambitious efforts at innovation like Hidary’s GlobalSolarCenter.com offer a business path for renewable energy and energy efficiency that could duplicate the pricing and delivery success achieved by companies like 1-800flowers and eBay. Innovations like PACE and GlobalSolarCenter.com are potential paths for achieving a sustainable economy and environment that offer customers “cost less, mean more” solutions.
Image credit: David Sifry, flickr