‘As always in solar, those who wait are those who lose,’ says Otovo CEO


European warehouses currently host around 40 GW of Chinese-made solar panels, worth about €7 billion ($7.8 billion), according to Norwegian consulting firm Rystad Energy.

“The solar value chain is extraordinary in its responsiveness to crises,” Norway-based residential solar specialist Otovo, Andreas Thorsheim, told pv magazine. “Only a year ago we were in desperate need of inverters and modules, and luckily manufacturers responded with a magnificent increase in capacity that is now benefiting solar buyers.”

In the 13 markets in which Otovo operates, equipment prices are down 9-15% so far this year, indicative of installers seeing their order books shrink and their inventories building up, according to Thorsheim.

“Modules always get sold and installer companies are usually resourceful in getting rid of equipment,” he added. “But of course, if you are hoarding hardware purchased in the first half of 2023 into late summer at the same time as module and inverter prices drop you are building up risk … My view is that residential, commercial, and governmental buyers can expect the lowest prices per watt seen since before the pandemic and energy crises. This autumn is going to be a strong buyer’s market.”

Thorsheim said consumers are somewhat more on the fence.

“But I’m not sure that’s rational,” he said. “As always in solar, those who wait are those who lose. A distributed value chain will always get some price signals slightly wrong, and be a bit oversupplied or undersupplied at times. But then again that’s natural when it’s moving at these crazy speeds, and over time it is one of the factors that makes solar ever more competitive against traditional energy generation.”

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He noted that Otovo has a “zero inventory strategy” as a rule.

“During the energy crisis of 2021-22, we did some strategic procurements in order to unblock the worst bottlenecks, but we are luckily done with those,” he said. “At the end of Q2, we held less than €300.000 euros of inventory for a €200 million yearly revenue run rate. Our view is that costs will come down on overhead, equipment and installation labor and we position ourselves to be at the forefront of those declines with no working capital or inventory on the line.”

Thorsheim said the company is looking to concentrate its whitelist with fewer manufacturers of modules, inverters, and storage in order to leverage its ability to influence the direction of purchases in the installer ecosystem and reduce the complexity of catering to many different models.

“The drop in prices at the consumer end of the market, as seen on the Otovo platform, is monotonous and downward, and uniform across Europe. Norway is down, France is down, the UK is down, Italy is down … I could go on and on,” he stated. “The latest modules off the boat are the cheapest. Of course, you should get those new panels.”

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