Accelerating the Energy Transition: How Startup We Do Solar Is Bringing Solar Energy Direct to the Consumer
“One of our biggest aims while creating the company was to finally create products that are a fit for non-tech-savvy users,” says co-founder Karolina Attspodina.
Europe’s transition towards climate neutrality and a net-zero future requires a massive shift from a historical reliance on fossil fuels towards the production of clean energy — and solar power is emerging as a frontrunner.
While the European Green Deal aims to dramatically increase the generation of solar photovoltaic (PV) from 160 GW in 2021 to 600 GW by 2030 — a 275% jump — these industrial efforts also need to be supported by smaller initiatives, ones that make us all energy producers.
Unfortunately, access to solar power has traditionally been limited to utility companies with industrial solar farms and rooftop solar PV setups for property owners or associations.
That’s where climate tech startups like We Do Solar come in. Founded by entrepreneurs Karolina Attspodina and Qian Qin, We Do Solar — winner of the BCGDV 2022 Social Ventures Program — is using a new solar panel format to make clean energy generation accessible to all. And direct-to-consumer systems like this may just be a key element for the long-term success of Europe’s energy transition.
Bridging the gap between panels and the public
Access to the usual rooftop solar systems is expensive, but it’s also out of reach for many people living in multi-tenant or rented accommodations who don’t have the option of installing rooftop PV arrays. And in European countries like Germany, the number of people living in rented accommodation far exceeds those owning their own homes.
Urban populations have also been steadily increasing since the 1980s. By 2050 it’s predicted that 66% of the global population will live in cities, with this number likely to continue growing beyond then. But these individuals still want to contribute to a net-zero future — and are essential to meeting that goal.
“Individual energy production — generated in residential homes — is the missing piece of the puzzle,” says Jan Zenneck, BCG’s Associate Director of Renewables and Distributed Energy. “To accelerate and sustain Europe’s energy transition, solar energy needs to be made available to everyone, from homeowners to tenants, and those living in multiple dwelling units.”
Enter: We Do Solar. Its innovative plug-and-play system allows individuals to generate solar energy without needing roof-based panels and batteries. The small, lightweight panels — measuring just 90 cm x 54 cm each — can be quickly self-installed on a balcony, plugged into a power socket, and used to power home appliances directly. According to We Do Solar, users can save up to 25% of their electricity bill, plus up to 600 kg of carbon dioxide per year, on average. The We Do Solar benefits calculator can be used to calculate an estimated savings potential pre-installation, and once the panels are installed, the mobile app can be used to gain insight into precise power generation and consumption figures.
While the initial outlay of €1,299 might seem significant, cost is rarely the primary roadblock to adoption. “European consumers are often willing to invest in renewable energy,” says Vuk Trifkovic, BCGDV Partner and Director. “They want to know they’re making an individual contribution towards a net-zero future. Rather than looking at the cost of this one-off investment, they consider the cost savings of being able to generate energy for themselves over time.”
This, combined with the transition to clean energy, means the demand for climate tech continues to grow. It’s now the fastest-growing sector in Europe, doubling in value from $47 billion in 2020 to $104 billion in 2021.
And in that market, We Do Solar is carving out a unique niche in the space between large-scale setups and DIY solutions.
“One of our biggest aims while creating the company was to finally create products that are a fit for non-tech-savvy users. Our panels are easily self-installable and designed to feel like a luxury privacy screen on the balcony,” says We Do Solar’s co-founder, Karolina Attspodina. “We also want our customers to see that solar is easy to use and understand by having a fully dedicated service experience.”
From a consumer point of view, one of the most effective ways to reduce energy consumption is to become more conscious about how and when we use it, Vuk added. By producing solar energy — and tracking production profiles and consumption patterns, as We Do Solar’s app allows, for example — citizens gain a deeper understanding of how to reduce their consumption over time.
A bright spot for Europe’s energy transition
Up until now, the solar energy market has been limited to businesses and single-family property owners. As we move towards a more equitable and sustainable energy future, reinventing traditional renewable energy business models requires thinking outside the box. Enabling individual citizens to generate their solar energy also perfectly encapsulates the concept of solarpunk. This aesthetic and ethos is based on how the technology that helps us move toward carbon neutrality will eventually become embedded in our everyday lives — from vertical farms and low-impact buildings to small-scale renewable energy production by individuals, just like that offered by We Do Solar.
And while the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy is a long-term, complex endeavor, We Do Solar and BCGDV are working together to accelerate the adoption of solar energy.
As the winner of BCGDV’s 2022 Social Ventures Program, BCGDV is helping We Do Solar scale its offering and communicate its competitive differentiation as it expands into new regions across Europe. “While the solar energy market is vast, the key is to conquer it as quickly as possible,” says Vuk. “That’s where BCGDV comes in, offering our expertise to support We Do Solar’s product scalability, user experience, and go-to-market efforts. Our goal is to enable as many consumers as possible to generate clean solar energy — in whatever type of housing they choose to live.”
Of the opportunities that this collaboration will bring, Karolina from We Do Solar explains the growth potential: “Working with BCGDV means we’re been able to accelerate our plans, enabling us to scale up more effectively, perfect the user experience, and expand our reach. Working together, we can empower every individual to meaningfully engage in the low-carbon energy transition.”