This year is ending with a new record, but installation companies are looking for orders again, says Tim Rosengart, managing director of the Selfmade Energy supply platform. His figures show how falling module prices and the new market situation are putting pressure on PV system prices.
From pv magazine Germany
You can get a good impression of how the installation market is running via the Selfmade Energy offering platform. What does it look like at the moment?
Tim Rosengart: After having an extremely strong August and September, homeowner demand plummeted in October to about half. We see this not only on our platform, but also among our installation companies, especially smaller companies who are desperately looking for orders. We see this with large providers based on Google click prices. The demand for ads on Google has increased dramatically, with prices increasing by almost 50%. This is quantitative evidence that organic demand has fallen.
How important are Google Ads to generate traffic?
For Selfmade Energy they are relatively unimportant because we get most of our users through informative posts on our site and through partnerships, such as with Verivox, preisvergleich.de and Finanztip. The fact that prices at Google have risen extremely sharply shows that many companies have to spend a lot of money to get the order quantities that they previously got cheaper.
Does that come as a surprise?
Last year, everyone who was basically thinking about it and had the money bought a solar system. The market was dominated by panic. 2022 was therefore extremely good and everyone expected 2023 to be even better and took that into account in their purchasing planning. You have purchased many components, hired employees and are now pushing this cost item ahead of you. People continue to buy solar systems, for example, when they see the neighbors have one. But the pressure to buy one now, as there was last year, is gone. In addition, last year you got money for 1% interest while inflation was high at the same time. Now the interest rates are significantly higher, so you can invest your money elsewhere.
The KfW funding for photovoltaic systems with wall boxes (KfW 442) was exhausted after one day and is to be launched again next year. What impact did the funding have on demand?
This is devastating, absolutely devastating. I can only shake my head at how one can do politics so amateurishly. You can’t tell people that there are €500 million and then €300 million are gone after a day — and when the next €200 million will come, I have no idea. In winter there is no sun anyway and people are now waiting for funding. Our customers notice that orders are being canceled.
What happens when installers want to display their offers on your site?
If a solar company decides to work with Selfmade Energy, a cooperation agreement is signed that also regulates data protection. Our solar companies can then enter exclusion criteria. What requirements do you have as a solar company for your orders? For example, do you only want to work on end-of-terrace houses, not middle-of-terrace houses? Or do you only install on detached houses, for example? Which roof coverings do you use? We can guarantee that you will only be referred to customers with these specifications. You must enter the zip code regions in which you offer. So that we can automatically create the indicative offers, you must fill out a table. You must specify which components you offer as standard and how much systems with 10, 11, 12 modules and so on cost. With us, the end customers see this price and that is very important — it is an indicative price that you can change later. You can also provide further information about yourself as a company, such as the fact that you are a regional company, or if you specialize in components from a specific manufacturer, or how quickly you can install. We try to work with the solar companies to find out their unique selling points. We can also see in our price atlas how you are priced in a postal code area.
Does the offer price decide in the end?
Our data shows that the cheapest ones are not always chosen. The most expensive provider is also chosen almost equally because it offers a particularly long guarantee. Others are clicked particularly well because they are regional providers.
How do installers pay for their offers?
If an offer from a solar company is displayed on our site so that customers who have been looking for an offer see it, the companies pay a small amount for it. When customers contact the solar companies and they receive a lead, they also pay an amount. This is significantly cheaper than what you pay for an advertisement on Google. We have recently also started offering data products that our customers can use to optimize themselves.
What kind of offers are these?
For example, we offer a Germany-wide solar price atlas. This pricing atlas allows solar companies to see how they compare to their competition based on key dimensions, such as the price including battery for a certain number of modules.
Have solar companies quickly reduced the prices that are on file in recent months?
Yes. And this is not our comparison’s fault, but rather it is clearly due to current market events and consumers’ reluctance to buy.
Can you quantify that?
Yes. In January, a large provider that operates throughout Germany asked for €26,000 for a 10 kW system including battery storage in Bavaria. In July it was only €18,500. That’s a decrease of 28%. But even more important is the time it takes to install. Compared to the same month last year, this time has decreased from six to 12 months to one month.
How can you see that end customers like to choose regional providers?
We have another tool, which is churn analysis. This allows us to analyze who our users select when other companies are included. We can see that professional local companies with high-quality offerings are very well received by Selfmade Energy users.
And that’s not because they offer cheaper prices?
Do the big companies offer cheaper prices on average than the regional companies?
On average, yes, but not necessarily. There are also many outliers at the regional level.
Not all end customers use Selfmade Energy. pv magazine and Selfmade Energy have jointly developed a business directory in which regional companies can present themselves. What do you expect from the partnership?
pv magazine is a brand that is increasingly read by end customers and has a wide reach. In addition, it is read by many regional companies that can be entered in the business directory. It is of course extremely attractive for end customers to go into the business directory and search for the companies there. We offer companies that are listed in the business directory the opportunity to test our offer comparison. We are interested in more regional solar companies coming to us. For us, it is also a great opportunity to present ourselves as a company.
This post appeared first on PV Magazine.