Excessive vitality costs are resulting in a photo voltaic growth internationally, however in Singapore, many dwelling house owners are nonetheless hesitant to put in photo voltaic panels due to the excessive price, says Bolong Chew, the founding father of Photo voltaic AI Applied sciences. The startup desires to make photo voltaic vitality extra accessible in Southeast Asia with a rent-to-own mannequin that helps prospects begin saving on their vitality payments from the beginning. It lately raised $1.5 million in seed funding, led by Earth Enterprise Capital with participation from Undivided Ventures, Investible and climate-tech angel investor David Pardo.
Photo voltaic AI was launched three years in the past and incubated by way of Engie Manufacturing unit, the enterprise arm of French utility firm Engie Group. Chew, who based the corporate together with Gérald Chablowski and Luke Ong, stated the group realized that one of many obstacles to rooftop photo voltaic adoption in Southeast Asia is lack of belief and consciousness, since important upfront prices have led to low adoption. Because of this, most individuals don’t know anybody who has already put in a photo voltaic system, regardless of the rising price of electrical energy, and the penetration price of photo voltaic programs remains to be lower than 1%.
“The normal pitch for a rooftop photo voltaic system is that you simply pay $15,000 to $20,000 upfront for it, break even after about seven to eight years and get free electrical energy for one more 20 years,” stated Chew. “However when most individuals don’t know somebody who’s already had a photo voltaic system for 2 or three years already, it’s very troublesome for patrons to take that leap of religion and transfer forward. Finally, the rental mannequin is a means for us to de-risk photo voltaic possession for these prospects.”
Photo voltaic AI gives three plans, together with a 5 12 months plan with 50% down funds, a ten 12 months plan with zero upfront prices and a conventional upfront buy. Month-to-month charges for the rent-to-own plans are about $200 a month, in comparison with common electrical energy payments of $250 a month. Chew says this implies prospects can begin saving $50 a month on their vitality prices as quickly as they get a photo voltaic system put in. Extra photo voltaic vitality generated is exported to the grid and customers receives a commission for it by the grid operator. In Singapore, that’s SP Group, which pays prospects immediately for extra vitality no matter what electrical energy retailer they use. Photo voltaic AI additionally covers upkeep and guarantee prices in the course of the contract interval.
Photo voltaic AI is at the moment serving greater than 100 prospects, and says it has surpassed $3 million SGD on signed rooftop photo voltaic contracts.
The rent-to-own mannequin is already prevalent in the USA and Europe, however Photo voltaic AI is the primary firm to supply it in Singapore. When launching the enterprise mannequin, Chew says the group “requested ourselves, are we actually forward of our time or simply silly?” They spoke with conventional business gamers who suggested the group in opposition to rent-to-own from a unit economics perspective. Whereas large-scale rooftop programs are funded by way of property agreements, unit prices are a lot greater for smaller scale tasks due to the expense of buyer acquisition. Chew stated one of many benefit that Photo voltaic AI has is that lots of their gross sales are finished by way of digital channels, which helps drive unit prices down.
Earlier than launching its rent-to-own enterprise, Photo voltaic AI had already begun constructing an viewers by way of academic content material on its web site. Chew stated it’s now prime ranked when it comes to most photo voltaic search key phrases in Southeast Asia. In Singapore, its net site visitors is 3 times greater than the 2 different largest photo voltaic firms mixed. Within the Philippines, the place it’s planning to increase throughout the subsequent 12 months, its net site visitors is 5 instances greater than the biggest photo voltaic firm. This helps preserve its buyer acquisition prices down.
Chew says that over the previous one and half years, Photo voltaic AI has spent little or no on paid advertising, with about 80% of buyer segments coming from natural search, together with written content material on Photo voltaic AI’s web site and on-line instruments like its instantaneous photo voltaic evaluation. Potential prospects then go into Photo voltaic AI’s gross sales pipeline, the place its salespeople have instruments to offer them a digital image of the method and ship them a proposal. This implies the bodily a part of putting in a photo voltaic system solely comes as soon as a buyer has determined they’re comfy continuing with both a 5 12 months or 10 12 months plan. At that time, Photo voltaic AI goes to their property and does a website survey. The opposite 20% of buyer segments comes by way of referrals.
Different markets Photo voltaic AI plans to increase to incorporate Malaysia and the Philippines, the place it has already begun working with native companions.
“Finally, the rationale we constructed the corporate is to actually attempt to hyper scale rooftop photo voltaic, as a result of all of us imagine that it’s the most effective local weather options on the market to decarbonize our surroundings,” Chew stated.
In a press release, Investible funding supervisor Ben Lindsay stated, “There’s a enormous quantity of untapped potential for each residential and business solar-as-a-service all through Southeast Asia. The traction and strong pipeline Photo voltaic AI group have achieved thus far is a powerful indicator for his or her potential to be a frontrunner all through the area as its improvement continues to speed up.”