Europe’s leading solar marketplace Otovo launches UK solar subscription with first sale

European residential solar and battery marketplace Otovo has announced the UK launch of its subscription product with its first sale: allowing British consumers to immediately have a solar system installed at home without having to pay thousands all at once.
Europe’s leading solar marketplace Otovo launches UK solar subscription with first sale
Courtesy of Otovo.

Despite record-breaking installation numbers in the UK across 2023, residential solar uptake in the UK is far behind where it could be, mostly driven by a lack of financing opportunities for British consumers.

Otovo expects the launch of its successful subscription model to prove a winner with UK households, with its low fees and transparent model, as it has for thousands of consumers across Europe. At a time when UK households are looking to save on their energy bills, Otovo’s subscription offering (the average consumer will pay £61 per month for a subscription with 10 panels and a battery) will significantly lower the main barrier to residential solar power adoption. Otovo expects the savings from the solar PV system to be greater than payments from the first year.

Otovo has originated (and innovated) a subscription model in Europe for consumers which gives them access to solar without having to pay in one go or worry about maintenance and quality. Otovo has over 6,000 solar subscription customers across Europe. The Norwegian company boasts deep expertise in subscriptions, as the UK is the 12th country where the company offers solar subscriptions. Customers are attracted to the ability to reap the benefits of solar from day one without saving for a system and with the peace of mind that comes from a twenty-year warranty on hardware and workmanship.

Residential solar uptake is surging across the UK, with installation costs falling and payback times on investment shorter than ever. Industry standards authority MCS reported over 180,000 domestic solar installations in 2023 - a rate of over 15,000 per month. Despite this surge, the UK remains a European outlier for solar adoption; although there is currently 0 percent VAT on residential systems, just 6 percent of UK households have solar, versus 25 percent in the Netherlands, 22 percent in Belgium and 9 percent in Switzerland and Austria.

Solar has consistently been a way to save money in the medium to long-term but upfront costs made it a major investment - reserved for only the wealthy, prudent, or eco-warrior - but it is now becoming increasingly obtainable, in part thanks to new financing models.

Subscriptions and leasing are commonplace in more mature markets such as the US, where it has been found that a relationship exists between leasing and those outside the top earners getting solar.

Concurrently, a growing percentage of solar users in the US are leasers; in 2021, industrial consultancy and research group Wood Mackenzie forecast that leasing in the US would grow by 40 percent year on year.

“Our subscription product changes the entire British solar market” said Otovo UK General Manager Jina Kwon. “Subscriptions immediately make solar accessible to most homeowners across the UK through a low monthly payment with no down payment. We’ve eliminated the biggest barrier to solar: a large upfront cost, or lack of financing options. We offer a warranty for the full term of the subscription–up to 20 years–meaning customers no longer need to worry about quality of hardware and or installation. We want solar to be as accessible as possible and subscriptions in the UK - with the system being ultimately owned by the customer through our financing model - will significantly lower the barrier to entry and mean more households can make the switch. Customers could make savings from day one of having a solar system and by working with MCS-certified installers, the quality of work is assured. Customers benefit from generating their own electricity from day one, becoming less dependent on the grid, reducing their carbon footprint, and participating in load management for the grid helping their neighbours with electricity stability.”

A typical 10-panel installation in Edinburgh could cost a customer £61 per month over twenty years (10 years for the battery) to finance a £7,100 installation. The panels could generate 3,900 kWh/year at current electricity rates of £0.29/kWh. In the described scenario, this specific consumer could expect to save up to 90 percent of their electricity bill spend by self consuming 70 percent of generated electricity, valued at £783, and selling the remaining 30 percent back to the grid at £0.15/kWh, valued at £180, totalling £963 and averaging £80/month, £19/month savings. The electricity portion of the Energy Price Cap is £967.47 until 31 March 2024, averaging £80.62/month.

“It is great to see more options becoming available for consumer solar” added Chris Hewett, Chief Executive of Solar Energy UK. “Offering different ways to access affordable capital for clean energy is a great way to increase take-up and spread the benefits of solar to more and more homes. We are talking to policy makers about ways to encourage more such initiatives.”

Founded in Oslo in 2016 and launched in the UK in 2023, Otovo makes solar accessible to consumers by making solar more transparent, affordable, and accountable. In its operational markets Otovo vets an applicant pool of installers who would like to join their platform, admitting fewer than 10 percent of applicants. Every installation is vetted and external audits are conducted to improve installer work. Customers are assured of reliable installations and hardware being used, as well as having someone to rely on for post-installation aftercare.

Customers benefit from lower than market prices on Otovo installations. Otovo is able to offer to installers better hardware pricing through partnerships with distributors that are not available to individual, independent installers and Otovo handles all administrative and office work for installers at the same time, meaning local installers can save time and money per Otovo-led project, focussing on their expert trade skills. These savings are passed directly onto consumers. Otovo also works with distributors and manufacturers to identify the best value for money hardware in the markets they operate in, giving customers the best value at the best price.

Otovo’s intuitive platform provides (obligation-free) personalised insights into the benefits that solar can bring to an individual’s property. Visitors to Otovo input their home address and, using satellite data and machine learned data gleaned from over 25,000 residential installations across 13 markets, the platform calculates how much sunlight a section of their roof receives and the corresponding energy produced, as well as the size, shape, and specification of suitable rooftop solar products.

In addition to breaking down the main barriers to residential solar adoption, Otovo is fundamentally reforming the concept of solar subscriptions in the UK. The traditional model saw a household lease their rooftop to a company to pay a reduced rate for the electricity generated by the panels. The household never owned the system however, leading to conflicts of interest when export rates to the grid changed or if systems needed repair. In contrast, through this new subscription model, Otovo provides financing and the cost of the system is spread over a pre-agreed period: with the customer ultimately owning their system outright at the end of the payment plan and able to purchase the system outright at any time with all maintenance and replacement covered as part of the service.

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