HANDELSBLATT EXCLUSIVE E.ON, Google Strike Solar Energy Partnership

Germany’s largest utility is partnering with Google to introduce Sunroof, a solar-energy data platform, outside the US for the first time.
German villages are soaking up the sun. Picture source: Reuters

E.ON is enlisting the help of Silicon Valley to power its transition to renewable energy. Germany’s largest utility and the US tech giant Google are partnering in the solar market, according to Handelsblatt sources at both companies.

E.ON will introduce Google’s solar platform Sunroof in Germany, the first time that Sunroof will be offered outside the United States. Sunroof helps homeowners calculate savings from installing rooftop solar panels. The platform uses Google Earth to analyze the shape of the roof and local weather patterns to determine how much sunlight a home receives each year.

Initially, seven million households in Germany will be able to calculate the solar potential of their homes on E.ON’s website, then directly order products such as photovoltaic modules from the company. Google will receive licensing fees.

03 p06 E.ON The Core Business-01

The introduction of Sunroof in Germany is part of E.ON’s broader efforts to feed green energy into the power grid. In 2016, the utility spun off its fossil fuel assets into a separate company, Uniper, so it could focus on developing renewables such as wind, solar and bioenergy.

The grids operated by companies such as E.ON are going digital at the same time that they are going green. Andreas Stender, an energy expert with A.T. Kearney, said many utilities are sitting on a trove of customer data that they are not utilizing effectively.

Internet companies have sought to exploit this weakness and position themselves between utilities and consumers, Mr. Stender said. Google dipped its toes in the energy market in 2014 when it purchased Nestlab, which manufactures smart thermostats and smoke detectors, for $3 billion. A year later, the tech giant introduced Sunroof in the United States.

“If you partner with an effective Internet company, that certainly brings advantages,” Mr. Stender told Handelsblatt.

For E.ON, the introduction of Sunroof in Germany is just the start. The utility aims to expand its partnership with Google to other European markets in the future.

Jürgen Flauger covers the energy market for Handelsblatt, including electricity and gas providers, international market developments and energy policy. To contact the author: [email protected]