Kiwi homeowner's demand for cheaper, cleaner energy increased during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Kiwis seeking cheaper power are choosing cleaner energy during lockdown

During the current Covid-19 lockdown period, Kiwi homeowners’ demand for cheaper cleaner energy has significantly increased.

solarcity has found that in the past few weeks there has been increased interest in their solar energy service, which offers consumers the option to power their home with solar, without the costly hardware, installation and maintenance costs. 

solarcity reports their website visits have lifted significantly during the lockdown, with the average number of daily enquiries up 30% from before lockdown.

With more time for consumers to think about making positive changes to their homes and reducing their outgoing costs, solarZero’s fixed monthly fee gives Kiwis some certainty during an uncertain time. As well as solar energy, the company offers its customers a price protected fee for grid power, providing protection against fluctuating power prices at a time consumers are spending more time in their homes and using more power than usual.

More solar = less emissions

solarcity reports that the increased interest from Kiwis means that more than average numbers of solarZero systems will be installed on Kiwi homes this month, saving homeowners money just in time for the winter season when power bills tend to soar due to additional heating and drying appliance use.

New solarZero customers acquired during the lockdown period increases the total effect on carbon emission reduction for New Zealand at 15 tonne per household(1).

Kiwis seeking cost and carbon savings

During lockdown Kiwis are considering not only cost savings, but also how they can reduce their carbon footprint. 

While most of New Zealand have been confined to their home bubbles, solarcity have noticed an increase in their customer contact rates with consumers having more time to chat and being more receptive to discussing the benefits of going solar. 

“We’ve noticed a marked increase in the level of awareness from consumers about climate change and carbon emissions following news of the positive effects of lockdown, with better air quality reported in cities, clearer skies and the return of birdlife to urban areas sparking curiosity about the effects of reducing their household’s emissions. In fact, with New Zealanders being confined to their homes, there has been additional scrutiny of their living expenses and outgoings, and more time to consider and explore alternatives,” says Neil Cowie, CEO, solarcity.

Contactless solar

solarcity’s initial sales process is conducted over the phone and email, so it was reasonably easy for the company to adjust to the lockdown restrictions, with minimal disruption to their business. The only part of the process affected was the installation of the solarZero system to the home. The recent move to Level 3 and Level 2 this week has allowed the company to restart installations under strict health and safety protocols, which began on Thursday 30 April 2020.  =

“Our installation and electrical teams have been trained and are working under strict health and safety protocols, including social distancing methods, cleaning and sanitising, PPE and detailed record-keeping for contact tracing purposes. Our customer team has been in contact with each of our customers directly to ensure that all parties are aware of their responsibilities during a home installation or service visit. We have produced a comprehensive guide to the process for our team and customers’ reference to further emphasise the importance of the protocols”, says Rob Wood, Head of Operations and Supply Chain.

Running a Virtual Office team

solarcity began operating as a virtual office with its 120+ staff working remotely from home prior to the official lockdown period, which began seven weeks ago on 26 March 2020. The company redeployed and retrained its installers and electricians who were unable to visit homes, to provide support and cover other roles in the business within a matter of days. And the experience has added valuable insights for the business. For example, electricians who were trained to review sales calls for quality assurance purposes provided valuable feedback to the sales leadership team based on their combined expertise and knowledge of the practicalities of the product in the field. The experience has also given these staff a better understanding of the solarZero service from a customer point of view. 

Across the business there has been an increased focus on upskilling, cross-training and development. The company has adapted its learning delivery using digital platforms to continue to provide learning opportunities for staff around the country. 

solarcity’s new CFO Matthew Ward joined the business in late April, having the unique distinction of having his induction and onboarding conducted in the virtual office. 

solarcity worked closely with their network of independent local electrical businesses across the country to make sure they had a strong pipeline of work to get them back up and running during Level 3 and Level 2 lockdown restrictions. Additionally, solarcity have supported these businesses by running local marketing campaigns targeting customers in their areas to boost demand. Feedback from its network has been very appreciative: 

“Knowing that we have a strong workload to come back to has taken away a lot of the stress that faces us as a small business during this time," says solarZero installer Keith Ansell, Northstar Technical Services, Wellington.

As many New Zealand businesses face uncertain futures, solarcity continues to look to the future. The company believes that a post-lockdown New Zealand gives businesses an opportunity to have a role in reshaping our country in ways that have a positive effect on the environment.

“We are more determined than ever to deliver Kiwis a smarter, cleaner and more sustainable future with solar energy. As we all emerge from this crisis it’s a time to reset our nation’s priorities and focus on those goals that will help improve our environment and Kiwis’ standard of living,” says Mr Cowie.

1 - based on average carbon savings of 15 tonnes per solarZero residential customer over 20 years