Vector say NZ solar customers motivated by environmental & energy independence concerns

A New Zealand energy network operator has challenged the view among established utilities that saving money is the main motivation behind the growing uptake of rooftop solar.

Vector, which runs the poles and wires – and the solar – in NZ’s biggest city of Auckland, says households want solar and storage because they value the environment, and their independence. Vector CEO Simon McKenzie, who pioneered the company’s groundbreaking solar and battery storage leasing scheme, also argues that today’s consumers are tech-savvy enough to embrace energy self consumption, in much the same way  they embraced the move from landlines to smart phones.

McKenzie says that despite popular belief in the “traditional” energy markets, rooftop solar customers are only looking at economics as a third order issue.

“Solar panels and associate technology are maturing to the point of mass market appeal,” McKenzie said in a presentation to analysts and media on Friday. “The balance of power is shifting from the utility service providers to he consumers.

“New distributed generation (and storage) and technology allows them to switch from the grid (if they want to),” he said.

“So they are demanding choice and the highest level of service from utilities. They are targeting energy consumption as an area to save money; they are environmentally conscious and they are willing to adopt technology such as solar panels which allow them to generate own electricity.”

Last year, Vector trialled its “Sun Genie” program, offering to install rooftop solar and storage for consumers under a leasing arrangement.

Vector says it cuts down on network costs, and help engage the consumer. Happily, people who go solar and storage tend to consume more, McKenzie says.

“You have got to ensure that the environment is such that solar can be integrated into the network and that customers have the ability to manage those solutions,” he said.

“There is no doubt that a lot of people are looking to embrace solar.”

McKenzie says Vector is currently reviewing where it goes next with its Sun Genie product which recently completed trials that identified the benefits of battery storage and how to integrate them into networks.

Vector is looking to roll out both its smart meter and its data management products in Australia, and is talking to utilities in Australia to set up new partnerships.

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson