New Utility Law, Third Party Ownership and White Papers
Below is a roundup of info on the power of solar white papers, SunPower’s terrific commercial solar website, and two recent articles on industry trends.
Groundbreaking Law Changing Utility Business Models
By Jennifer Runyon for Renewable Energy World
In Hawaii Takes Historic First Step Toward Creating ‘Utility of the Future’ Now, Runyon reports on the groundbreaking law, the Ratepayer Protection Act, just passed in Hawaii. The law directs state utilities to alter their business models and charge based on factors related to customer satisfaction like affordability, reliability, renewable interconnectedness and efficiency as opposed to something like capital expenditures. The article goes on to assert that the main reason for the law is that utilities have made the process of using solar (plus storage) on the grid so difficult that homeowners may simply begin to defect and go off-grid en masse. If that happened, which is possible given that the state is committed to going 100% solar by 2045, it would threaten the viability of utilities in Hawaii. Runyon then describes the new metrics the Public Utility Commission would consider regarding incentives and penalties and characterizes this policy shift as one that could have global implications. I would also recommend a perusal through the article comments, which are quite interesting.
Key quote from State Sen. Stanley Chang: “At the end of the day the utility of the future has to be one that is performing all of these different metrics. That is the one that is going to survive…Otherwise the death spiral thing is a real thing.”
White Papers for Solar B2B Marketing
What white papers can do for a solar marketing strategy:
- Help position a company as an industry expert and trustworthy advisor
- Drive traffic to a company website via keyword optimized text and through uses on social media channels
- Keep communication open with a lead during their deliberation process
- Are used by salespeople to add weight to their sales presentations and function as leave-behinds
- Can nurture a prospect at points all along the sales funnel:
- Generating leads and educating early on
- Demystifying the sales process and clarifying the benefits along the middle
- Locking the sales in at the very end with facts and figures about technical considerations and ROI
- Are often written for the various business decision makers such as technical factors explained for the lay person, the economics of solar for the CFO, how to find qualified contractors and assess bids for the facilities manager
- Can be repurposed for blog posts, slideshares, and infographics
A white paper can nurture a prospect at points all along the sales funnel.
White papers fall into three formats: a soft sell persuasive essay offering a solution to a problem, a numbered list of insights about an issue, or a hard sell description of a product’s technical or business advantages. From what I’ve seen, options regarding topics for contractors are pretty varied.
Some possible white paper areas for solar:
- Laying out the various financing options for commercial solar installations, including information about your local and regional offerings. This can also be specific to industries you target, like auto dealers or educational institutions
- Examining the features and benefits of the latest developments in commercial solar related technology or an in depth look at the benefits of solar + storage for businesses
- Educational papers on how to conduct cost-benefit analysis for a commercial solar installation or how to pick a commercial solar contractor (including case studies)
- Walking through a step by step description of all phases of a commercial solar installation, including discussion of the three major types, storage, potential complications and special cases
- Discussing issues like misinformation about solar, unethical company practices, and the advantages of making sustainable business choices
Third-Party Ownership of Commercial Solar On the Rise
By Michelle Davis for GTM
Commercial Solar May Be 78% Third-Party Owned by 2021 reports on the findings from a new GTM report, Commercial Solar Consumer Finance Trends, which state that third-party ownership in commercial solar will continue its steady increase, mainly driven by significant growth in community solar (which accounted for almost a fifth of 2017 commercial installations). The rate at which this occurs is expected to vary across segments. The most aggressive increase in TPO will occur in community solar, solar+storage and 1+ megawatt installations. Conversely, this trend will be more gradual for smaller and mid sized projects given that they are more difficult to finance. The article goes on to discuss what drives this trend toward TPO and make recommendations to developers and financiers on how to capitalize on the largely untapped commercial solar market.
Key quote: “Commercial solar is a challenging sector in which every deal is a bit different. But as third-party ownership becomes increasingly appealing to customers, developers and financiers will be well positioned with more flexible and appealing financing options.”
The Power of SunPower’s Commercial Solar Marketing
As I examine solar industry websites I’ve been consistently struck by the effectiveness of the business related marketing materials on SunPower’s website. By contrast, I’ve found that a good number of installer sites skip some key ingredients in their commercial solar marketing. I wanted to highlight four things SunPower seems to be doing exceptionally well:
- Separate section for commercial solar. This section on their site is well organized and attractive with a long one-page design that allows visitors to access all the content they need to make their decisions. There is clearly delineated information for each industry, business case studies, succinct language and images about why they’re the best choice, key product offerings, and relevant blog articles, all capped off by an industry specific call to action at the bottom.
- Industry specific information. Each industry they target has a separate page complete with video content, case studies, links to info on relevant tech and resource material at the bottom in the form of white papers, infographics, FAQs, articles and digital brochures. The copy on the pages for each industry is detailed and specifically targeted to address the needs and concerns of the business buyers for that industry.
- Excellent use of SEO content. They use case studies, white papers and other resources throughout their commercial solar section. The case studies include persuasive headings, customer quotes and compelling storytelling at 3+ page length, with options to stop at the quick fact summary or download the entire study to print and pass around. There are several white papers sprinkled throughout the site, some industry specific and others more general. There are also a number of other reference materials, some industry specific like financing solar for agriculture and a study about solar in schools and others more general like how to choose a solar partner. The content for all of this is targeted, well-written and communicates an attractive value-proposition.
- A separate business blog. The posts in their “business feed” are keyword optimized and have plenty of internal links and calls to action. The format for the posts vary, including infographics, videos, lists, briefs, and even cartoons with easy to navigate pulldowns to browse by topic or format.
The copy on SunPower’s webpages for each industry is detailed and specifically targeted to address the needs and concerns of the business buyers for that industry.