Energy Efficiency and PV: Together Forever
We have seen a marriage of the energy efficiency and solar energy industries as the US has worked to green its buildings. In fact, some financing programs require that all cost-effective efficiency be pursued before solar panels are installed.
Here Elisa Wood interviews Liz Merry, owner of Verve Solar Consulting, about how the solar industry views energy efficiency and the outlook for companies that tackle both EE and PV.
What do solar installers think of the idea that a building should be made energy efficient before solar equipment is installed?
I've heard some solar leaders say "Energy efficiency eventually, sales first." That makes complete sense in some cases, where the solar installer has recruited the customer and the customer already has an energy efficient home. If the customer has to call another contractor to come in and get the building 5 percent more efficient at a high cost before the solar project can go forward it is going to kill the solar project.
But, in the cases where the home is older and simply leaking energy out of its thin windows and walls, the solar company that recruits this customer has an opportunity to sell a bigger job by doing the energy retrofit project, or partnering with a building performance contractor. I picture the energy efficiency first requirements as a mandate for smart contractors to become energy service companies, not just solar, not just efficiency.
Energy retrofit work isn't always easy, and sometimes it is hard to find energy contractors. Can solar installers always find contractors to the work if a home must be made efficient before solar is added?
It's not easy, but it's possible. And where there is challenge there is opportunity. The building performance contractor business is about to get very busy, and the entire trade will become more efficient and standardized with experience, just has it has developed in the PV and thermal businesses over time. We're just in that rough spot between initial demand creation and plenty of supply available.