When companies like Solar City started offering no money down solar leases in California, it heralded the start of a major solar power boom.
By removing the sometimes daunting upfront capital costs, and allowing customers to instead lease their rooftops and buy back energy at a cheaper rate, such schemes massively expand the potential market for solar power.
Similarly, platforms like Mosaic Solar have increased access to capital for would-be solar projects, empowering ordinary citizens to invest in rooftop solar systems, pooling their resources to buy a stake in a project that none of them could afford alone.
A new scheme from UK-based Solarcentury aims to combine the best of these two innovations, allowing UK businesses to lease their unused roof space and buy back the energy at a cheaper-than-retail rate, while also allowing customers, employees or community members the opportunity to invest in the scheme through renewables-focused "democratic finance" platform Abundance Generation.
Here's how Frans van den Heuvel, CEO of Solarcentury, explained the proposition:
“With 27 billion sq feet of south-facing commercial roof space available in the UK, there is a huge opportunity for businesses to make money by leasing their unused roof space to Solarcentury and buying the cheaper solar electricity generated by the solar installation. Taking control of energy costs is becoming a significant concern for businesses, especially high energy users worried about how rising energy prices will affect their competitiveness. Now, through Abundance, businesses can also ‘share the wealth’ by giving employees, customers and people in their local communities the opportunity to invest in the solar projects.”
Of course this last part may actually be one of the most important aspects of the scheme. Instead of simply purchasing renewable energy credits or other intangibles, and then boasting about it in corporate communications, when a company encourages its stakeholders to get directly involved in its clean energy mission, it both raises brand awareness and builds a deeper, more authentic relationship with its audiences.
And that's a lot more valuable than the money you spend on your electricity bill.