WHY TESLA BRANDED SOLAR IS A BIG DEAL

So last week, Musk did it again.

With overwhelming shareholder support, he created a fully integrated consumer energy company by merging his EV/storage baby, Tesla, with its cousin, SolarCity.

Obviously this is an important deal for many reasons, but I’m just going to focus on why it’s a big deal for the evolution of personal energy choice, and more specifically, for the branding of energy as a consumer lifestyle product and not just a relatively ignored commodity.

What does that even mean? To start, it means that right now the companies providing you with the option to make personal solar energy choices generally fall into three brand categories — The Utility brand (your reliable utility may now offer you a solar option); The SolarCity brand (joined by a few other large-scale nation-wide rooftop installers — SunRun, Sungevity, Vivint etc.); The Local Rooftop Installer Brand(s) (will generally include some variation of the word sun in company name). If a word can be adapted to include “sun”, it has been done.

All this likely confirms that your brand recognition for solar energy is relatively low.

Next, geographic variation in energy policy and pace of policy change add another layer of complexity to the quest for capturing consumer hearts and minds. Solar deployment is in large part driven by regional policy, which means the choice you get to make with regards to where your power comes from or whether or not you can install solar on your roof varies state-to-state/province-to-province. That deployment is also heavily dependent on your utility. This is not to say that you definitively WANT the option to choose solar (for most people, energy reliability > energy source on their list of priorities), but if you do, the rules around the options will look slightly different for your parents in Massachusetts and your sister in South Carolina. I do believe we will get to a point where zero-carbon sources dominate (I mean, we’ve got to), but the path to that end goal is not perfectly clear. Further, though we know policy and utility changes are required and in motion, we also know those changes tend to be relatively slow.

Relatively slow in comparison to what a consumer revolution may look like when people have fully sipped a brand’s Kool-Aid. What we haven’t yet seen is what a consumer energy revolution looks like when a solar brand becomes a household name.

Enter Tesla. In a relatively short period of time (compared with the time the Ford Motor Company and other automotive behemoths have had to capture your brand allegiance), the brand is gaining significant consumer traction. You may not recognize the SolarCity brand, but if you don’t live under a rock, you’ve heard of Tesla and you’ve definitely heard of Elon Musk.

But now there is no more SolarCity. There’s just Tesla — and their fancy new rooftop solar products will be branded Tesla too. Which means solar just became a household name. That’s a big deal.

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