Germany: Energy storage opportunity for struggling PV installers

According to Saif Islam, project leader for EuPD Research’s European PV Installer Monitor 2014/2015, Germany’s installers are "struggling" with a changing solar manufacturing landscape, in which many manufacturers no longer exist. However, he tells pv magazine that energy storage could present them with new possibilities, since nowadays end customers "do not see PV and energy storage as an investment, but more as a means to be energy independent."

Of the over 750 companies surveyed, 85% are either already offering energy storage solutions, or are planning to do so. "SMA is the most-known and most-used brand. Many installers already made favorable experience with the inverters from SMA and thus trust the quality of the products," Islam adds. Price is said to be the main factor for those not considering storage.

Meanwhile, 44% of respondents said they tend to purchase their PV modules directly from the manufacturers, up from 38% in the previous installer monitor. Yingli, SolarWorld and Heckert Solar were identified as the most used brands among German installers. Despite this, the majority of respondents said they were inclined to recommend REC, LG and IBC Solar modules.

Commenting Islam said, "We ask installers how likely they would recommend the brands they carry in their portfolio, and thus we establish the Net Promoter Score (NPS). These three brands achieved the highest result. When asked why installers recommend a brand, the main reasons for these three brands were: REC – efficiency & rate of return; LG Electronics – high quality; IBC Solar – price-performance ratio."

Too costly

EuPD has also concluded – in the first phase of another survey, focusing on German homeowners without PV systems – that respondents see solar as a costly investment, with little return expected.

There is a lack of information and advice available, says EuPD, from trade, construction workers and architects, who themselves don’t have sufficient knowledge on the economics of PV. Consultations on the topics of refurbishment or house conversions also fail to identify PV as a possibility, it continues.

From information gleaned via the survey, homeowners instead receive their information from past public debates. Despite this, there is an open-minded attitude towards solar PV. Particularly attractive, says EuPD, are the possibility of independence from electricity suppliers, and the environmental aspects.

The aim of the study is to locate end customers for installers, in order to boost the country’s small-scale PV segment. According to the German Federal Network Agency, only around 98 MW of solar PV systems under 10 kWp have been installed since the beginning of the year, thus representing a YoY decrease of around a third.