Riding a unicorn for smarter, better rooftop solar and home batteries

The scale of the challenge in combatting climate change can seem insurmountable. At the same time, energy costs are spiralling – with the latest electricity price hike coming into effect for AGL and Origin Energy customers only a few days ago.

But there are many reasons to remain positive. The soaring performance and cost competitiveness of today’s high efficiency solar panels and home batteries are a proven success stories. Alongside this technical progress, the smart money is flowing for solar, energy storage, and home electrification. And the latest major announcement hit pretty close to home.

Late last month, Natural Solar’s parent company 1KOMMA5° announced that it had raised €430 million, or about $700 million in Aussie dollars, to put towards its ongoing acquisition campaign of leading solar and battery energy storage retailers and installers. The cash will also go towards the development and rollout of devices like the Heartbeat – the smart home energy controller that is set to change how households manage and use their energy.

A new solar and home battery “unicorn”

The new funds raised by 1KOMMA5° means that the company is now what is known as a “unicorn” – a start-up enterprise with a market value of over US$1 billion dollars. It is remarkable achievement and especially so in that was achieved in less than two years.

“This [investment] allows us to invest up to €430 million – in the vertical integration of the value chain and to drive technology development around Heartbeat and our virtual power plant,” read the company statement.

As the head for the Asia-Pacific region for 1KOMMA5°, alongside being the CEO of Natural Solar, it is gratifying for me to see the “unicorn” status being achieved. It indicates just how future-focused investors are willing to put big money behind transformational companies that provide cost-cutting and emissions-reducing solutions.

For consumers, Aussie homeowners and people running small businesses, the injection of capital into 1KOMMA5° means that we can accelerate our plans – which will mean smarter and more affordable clean energy systems and delivered in ways that better meet their needs. Let’s go through what the freshly minted 1KOMMA5° unicorn means.

A bigger 1KOMMA5° family

While Natural Solar was the first company to be brought into the 1KOMMA5° family, in October 2022, it was quickly followed by Solaray Energy, in January 2023. And with a bolstered war chest, there will be more to come.

Where Australian solar and home battery companies have a reputation for delivering high quality products and outstanding service, they could become a valued part of the 1KOMMA5° team. With local expertise, continued expansion of 1KOMMA5° throughout the country will provide tailored and individual service to customers, with the support of a billion-dollar company standing behind our products and services.

And, of course, it is not only within Australia that 1KOMMA5° is expanding: the latest acquisition was Denmark’s leading solar and battery installation company Viasol. Our rapid growth both organically and inorganically on a global scale truly sets 1KOMMA5° apart from our competitors.

More bang for your buck

When working with solar, smart energy, and home battery component suppliers, size matters. It’s generally described as “increased purchasing power” and it is particularly important in the clean energy industry when supply and demand dynamics can change quickly – potentially delaying installations.

With 1KOMMA5° growing in size and importance, and negotiating with our premium suppliers like Maxeon, Enphase, and Sonnen, we can lock in stable supply of components at excellent prices, passing the value straight to customers

Expansion up the supply chain

While our strong relationship with our suppliers is very important to us, 1KOMMA5° is embracing innovation in-house and bringing some very exciting products to the market.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it is worth reiterating just how game changing the Heartbeat is. While we electrify more and more devices within our homes and businesses, think heating and cooling, cooktops, and a charger for an EV, how to manage those devices becomes incredibly important.

In the past, different devices from different suppliers were difficult to integrate. The Heartbeat changes all of that. 1KOMMA5° engineers are frequently adding new PV power electronics and home appliances to the Heartbeat platform. The new funding secured next month will allow us to accelerate these efforts.

Beyond power electronics, 1KOMMA5° has also got involved in the production of the very building block of our industry: the solar panel. Recently there have been concerns that forced labour may have been used in the production of polysilicon, the raw material in almost every solar panel, from some parts of China. There are also concerns that polluting coal-fired electricity is being used in its production.

To tackle these concerns head on, 1KOMMA5° has contracted with the leading supplier of polysilicon, WACKER, to procure clean and ethically produced raw material for the production of our All-Black solar modules. I can’t wait to offer this exciting product to Australian customers and the funding boost will accelerate our plans.

A new customer experience

Perhaps most excitingly, with  the large investments secured for the warchest,  and the new valuation showing how important smart energy has become, 1KOMMA5° can accelerate plans to open retail outlets for people to see and experience our smart energy products in real life, before they buy.

We have already opened what we describe as “Apple style” retail stores in Europe, and plan to do the same in Sydney and Melbourne within the next year. A clean-energy home and lifestyle might be difficult to envisage in the abstract, but once you can see the devices and their digital interfaces, it’s a much easier decision to make the smart choice and embrace the clean energy future.

1KOMMA5° co-founder Philipp Schröder perhaps said it best, when opening the first retail store in Hamburg, Germany: “At 1KOMMA5°, our vision is to accelerate CO2 neutral life for all! We created an easy one-stop-shop to buy and install solar, charging stations and heat pumps, with the purpose of liberating all European homes from the shackles of fossil fuels. With Heartbeat, we make clean energy smarter.”

The words are wise ones from Schröder, one of the leaders of a new look “unicorn”. They are exciting times for anyone looking to embrace a CO2 neutral life and take control of their energy supply today. And with new funding and a new place in the business world, 1KOMMA5° is set to accelerate towards its exciting goals.

By Chris Williams | July 5th, 2023 | Categories: General Solar, Home Energy Storage, News

These costs are based on the SA Power network in Adelaide but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes a general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on Energy Locals Time of Use Tariff – (TOU – Peak, Off-Peak & Solar Sponge).

The reference price is set by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) for a financial year in relation to electricity supply to residential customers in the distribution region and is based on an assumed annual usage amount. Any difference between the reference price and the unconditional price of a plan is expressed as a percentage more or less than the reference price. The terms of any conditional discounts are shown, along with any further difference between the reference price and the discount applied if a condition is met, expressed as a percentage more or less than the reference price.