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NRG Energy ramps up rooftop solar biz with acquisition

Posting in Energy

NRG Energy announced plans Thursday to buy Roof Diagnostics Solar, the sixth largest installer in the U.S., in a bid to ramp up its fledgling residential rooftop solar business. The price and terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

NRG already has a commercial and industrial solar business. For example, the company owns large-scale solar farms that then sells the electricity to utilities. The company also has a network of solar installers and offers financing under its NRG Residential Solar Solutions business. 

This acquisition is notable because it marks NRG's more aggressive move into the residential solar rooftop market. And based on comments in the company's press release, NRG plans to do more than just sell or lease panels. Denise Wilson, president of NRG New Businesses, referred to "home power systems" in the release, a signal that the company plans to sell a package of energy services to homeowners.

NRG President CEO David Crane on why the company is buying a residential solar company: 

With the price of residential solar increasingly competitive with the retail price of power in multiple states, the time is now for NRG to ramp up its efforts to bring the benefit of self generation to NRG’s millions of present and future retail electricity customers.  
With residential solar sales expected to take off in the next few years, NRG wants and expects to meet the demand of Americans in every state who are seeking to benefit from the inexhaustible supply of clean energy provided by the sun while affording themselves greater independence from an increasingly less reliable electric grid.

In short, Crane believes—and has said this before—that the energy industry is undergoing a transformation. Speaking in late February at the ARPA-E Energy Summit, Crane suggested the grid will be obsolete and used only for backup within a generation, calling the current system "shockingly stupid."

And as SmartPlanet energy columnist Chris Nelder noted last month, only utilities nimble enough to adopt new revenue models providing a range of services and service levels, including efficiency and self-generation, will survive. 

For NRG, that means moving away from the old school model of utilities generating and then delivering energy from big power plants and instead, building a network that relies on lots of smaller generating sites located close to where electricity is used. 

Thumbnail photo: NRG Energy

— By on March 27, 2014, 4:41 PM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure