Our summer series kicks off with Pedro Miranda from Younergy. Fittingly, we caught up with him on a hot and sunny day to talk about solar energy.
First and foremost, Younergy sells electricity. This is obviously not a new concept. What’s different is that we have a decentralised approach and we are exclusively selling renewable energy.
We install solar panels on people’s roofs; and then we sell the power produced by the solar system to the people living under that roof.
The idea is to make solar energy more accessible to the average Swiss household. By investing into someone else’s roof we are bridging the initial investment gap that prevents a lot of people from getting solar energy in the first place.
In Europe alone, over 60% of energy comes from fossil energy sources including oil, coal and natural gas. This releases enormous amounts of C02 into our atmosphere and causes global warming. I believe in the vision of a post carbon society and when the opportunity came up to invest into a better form of energy I didn’t think twice.
Until a few years ago, solar power was still incredibly expensive and simply not profitable. However, in the late 2000s the increased production of solar panels in Asia brought the prices down. All of a sudden it didn’t only make sense from a sustainability perspective to produce solar energy but it was also economical.
Installing a solar system on someone else’s house is a long process that requires a lot of coordination. We have to be super efficient to make sure every step along the way is handled as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
We have for example semi-automated the process of sending offers to potential clients. And we have developed software that integrates client data automatically into our CRM. Currently we are testing new ways to streamline the maintenance of the solar panels that have been installed all over the country.
A great advantage for us is that people are more informed than ever before. If a client is interested in solar energy they will go to the Internet to find out what they want to know and even compare different offers.
On the other hand, running digital campaigns and maintaining a number of online profiles is something we find challenging. It takes a lot of time and requires daily attention.
In the very beginning we were working from home. Then we had the opportunity to move to La Forge at the EPFL Innovation Park. Talking to people who have experience in getting start-ups off the ground and exchanging ideas with other like-minded start-ups made a real difference for us. Last January, we moved to our current location, Le Garage.
We continue to benefit from the EPFL environment. Not only do we get a lot of credibility being associated with the EPFL, we also have the opportunity to work with students.
I know it’s hard but the best thing you can do is switch off your phone and go to a remote place in the mountains. No internet connection, no Wi-Fi. Ideally, you spend a week up there and see what it does to you.