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Community Solar: Components of a Solution

As the demand for renewable energy grows, community renewable programs continue to develop.  Community Solar projects across the US are one area with remarkably rapid growth. In the Hansen blog – Community Solar: 3 Challenges and Opportunities for CSSPs, the challenges and opportunities Community Solar Service Providers (CSSPs) face were examined. This blog further discusses the prospects for CSSPs and the steps to overcome common challenges.  

Implementing an easy enrolment process 

Implementing an easy enrolment ensures a smooth and positive customer experience, helping to overcome customer drop-offs or churn.  The enrolment process itself consists of two pieces: 

  1. A pricing mechanism that uses a combination of information that the customer can provide quickly.  Including name, address, and, if it gets that far, credit check information such as D&B or Social Security Number. As well as publicly available data, including real estate databases, EPRI information, etc., this information is used as a proxy for the customer’s energy usage – not arcane information such as utility account number and rate classes. Present a limited set of options from which the customer can choose. 
  2. A robust CRM which can capture all relevant information and maintain customer engagement.  The physical proximity of community solar customers can be used to great advantage.  Moreover, better pricing and contract term options can be offered to the customer over time by maintaining contact and mining social media data.  

Implementing a Robust Billing System 

The next step is to implement a robust billing system. Due to a lack of standards in data transmission and the fact that most utilities company’s systems are not designed for modern technologies, the challenge of calculating how much credit a customer receives is significant.  

The customer savings must be shown on each monthly bill and longer term, including annually or a specified contract term.  Therefore, customers cannot be expected to combine bills from two or three vendors to calculate their savings.  

This type of practice would likely lead to high customer churn and a poor customer experience.  And customers are a necessary piece of the community solar model, as is modelling hundreds (if not thousands) of complex billing rates and tariffs, multiple pricing cycles, and complex accounting.  The good news is that technology and innovators have solutions available on the market to manage this entire process, including Hansen CIS 

The Energy Transition in 5Ds 

Looking to the Energy Transition and the move to a clean future – the ‘5Ds’ are still relevant – Deregulation, Decarbonisation, Distributed Energy Resources (DER), Digitalisation, and Democratisation.  The Community Solar energy system is a solid representation of this transition and a glimpse of the future of a 100% renewable-run world.  Operational excellence is no longer an option to build a thriving community solar business; it is a fundamental building block for success. 

Discover more on Community Solar and Hansen CIS, a part of the Hansen Suite for Energy and Utilities or continue reading about the energy transition and the 5Ds.