E.ON: The PV business is and will remain profitable

pv magazine: E.ON seeks to continue the strong expansion of its PV business. What is your take on the current market situation in Germany?

Franco Gola: The uncertainty in the PV market is still very huge. The branch is reinventing itself. However, our customers have given us feedback, that we as long-standing energy experts, with our brand and our size, can move confidently in the solar market. Moreover the actual development goals represent two to three billion Euros, with the addition of businesses with additional products and services such as energy storage, heat pumps or service contracts.

Is the PV business worth it for your company currently?

The PV business is an important and profitable market for us. Therefore we offer a wide portfolio for all customer groups, and are betting on long-term customer relationships.

What business models are profitable?

PV plants remain attractive especially for private persons and small commercial operations, with special emphasis on installations up to 10kW due to the self-consumption minimal limit found in the EEG. The market potential for the small installations segment, up to 30kW, is estimated to be worth around a billion Euros annually according to our estimates.

And how is it for bigger PV plant customers?

Solar remains an important theme also for bigger clients like state utilities and energy operators with regards to searching for new business models other than classic energy operations. Strategic partnerships is the key here. Hence, we offer, for example, our PV plants as white-label solutions for state utilities.

What kind of returns can be expected from new PV systems currently?

Again, the PV business is and will remain profitable in our view. I do not wish to disclose exact numbers here.

What has changed in the distribution of PV systems in Germany in contrast to previous years?

The mere sale of PV systems is insufficient, consultancy has become more intensive. This plays into our hands as we can provide energy expertise to our customers. For the development of new PV plants, it is an important advantage to be able to offer the customer holistic solutions that are optimally aligned for the household or operation to maximize generation and self-consumption. The aim is after all a optimized self-consumption orientation.

How do you gauge the market for storage solutions in Germany? Is the demand high?

The resonance up to now is very positive. Energy storage is on the move. We have sold a storage solution for every third PV installation for private clients this year. The interest is enormous and in our opinion, will continue to grow.

There are already more than 1.5 million PV plants in Germany. E.ON now wants to provide plant check services to these operators. What are your expectations from this business?

We, as E.ON, see huge potential in this. Only in July did TÜV Rheinland conclude that every third installation shows some form of defect or capacity deficit. With more than 50% of these, installation errors were the cause, and with another 25% planning and documentation errors. That says a lot. From mid-September anyone can enter the details of their installations on the website www.eon-solarprofis.de in a few steps. We calculate quickly and reliably if the system capacity is being fully utilized or whether more electricity can be generated than currently. Then there is also the possibility of a more detailed on-site audit of the facility, and also the detection of defects with regards to maintenance and repair.

E.ON entered the German PV business rather late. Do you see this as a mistake or do you rather see the long-term prospective?

Solar plants have been a part of the E.ON portfolio for a long time now. But you are right. The large demand from customers is coming to us only now. And that lies in the PV sector uncertainty. Here, we have managed to gain the required trust. Especially with our existing customers, we know the electricity prices, the consumption and load profiles, and can thus provide them with specific advice for solar and offer them a customized solution. Therefore we are well-versed in both energy and solar, and use our expertise in our clients’ interest.

Translated and edited by Shamsiah Ali-Oettinger