Director of Strategic Partners Q&A: Helping our channel partners succeed with solar plus storage

A conversation with Rachel Permut, Director of Strategic Partners | September 21, 2018

At ENGIE Storage, we believe that a strong partner program builds a stronger business and results in better customer experiences with solar power generation and energy storage. We sat down with Rachel Permut, Director of Strategic Partners at ENGIE Storage, to talk about how solar developers and energy service companies can benefit from a channel relationship.

Solar developers can meet Ms. Permut and others from ENGIE Storage at Booth #554 at Solar Power International (SPI), September 25-27, in Anaheim, California.

Q: How does ENGIE Storage serve its channel partners?

A: ENGIE Storage is a full-service provider of commercial and grid-scale energy storage solutions with a lot to offer our current and future channel partners. We developed a software platform and suite of tools known collectively as GridSynergy®. Several components were developed specifically to serve our partners. For example, our prospecting tool allows us to provide partners with accurate and timely analysis of facility load profiles to determine if energy storage is a good fit and how it would work with solar installations of various sizes. If we determine a site can benefit from energy storage, we recommend the optimal battery size for that location, taking into account the customer’s financial goals and expected usage peaks. We have years of experience in sizing and operations, so we understand what makes for an optimal storage system.

We are the number-one energy storage company as ranked by Navigant Research, and our turnkey solutions save partners the hassle and risk of trying to put together disparate hardware and software packages. The GridSynergy software at the heart of our systems is the most highly regarded in the industry. It’s smart enough to adjust to changing operational conditions on the fly in order to maximize value to the customer. It also helps customers qualify for the federal investment tax credit (ITC) by monitoring and documenting solar energy input into the storage.

Q: How does ENGIE Storage provide a great partner experience?

A: We are committed to treating all of our partners equally, with consistent pricing and the same outstanding level of service. When we promise savings, partners and customers can expect us to deliver on those expectations. And the backing of our parent company, ENGIE, ensures that we will be able to do so for years to come, whether we’re servicing a 10 or 20-year contract.

By leveraging ENGIE Storage solutions and expertise, our partners can concentrate on their core competencies, add value to their offerings, improve the bankability of their projects and increase both sales volume and service quality.

Q: What does ENGIE Storage gain from the relationship?

A: Customer acquisition is resource intensive. Because solar plus storage is a powerful and essential pairing, we’ve found that by working with our channel partners that are already actively participating in the solar market, we can achieve higher efficiencies and provide better pricing and more savings for the end customer.

Q: What is your role in meeting partner expectations? How do you go about assessing their needs?

A: That’s the reason I’m here! I’m responsible for working with our engineering teams and account managers in different geographies to make sure that everything from customer engagement to contracting, operations, and installation goes well. I’m here to make sure that partnerships are strong, that we provide opportunities for feedback, and that we incorporate that feedback into ongoing process and service improvements.

Q: How does the process work?

A: We take a comprehensive, programmatic approach, in which we support our channel partners from end to end. First, we help partners identify the best solar plus storage opportunities and conduct the initial site evaluations and project assessments.

Next, we provide sales training and support and assist in contract development, offering performance guarantees to satisfy customers and meet incentive requirements (SGIP, SMART, ITC). Since we are actively involved in shaping policy related to solar plus storage, we are well positioned to help our partners take full advantage of the latest legislation.

In the project implementation phase, we offer installation training for our partners’ engineers as well as ongoing operational support. We can also provide knowledge transfer and help our partners understand how to install energy storage systems themselves.

We like to think beyond a single project, and it’s important for us to have confidence that energy storage will be a key part of the solutions the partner will offer to customers going forward. As such, we are committed to developing strong, long-term partnerships and investing significant resources to make those partnerships successful.

Q: What’s the latest buzz in solar plus storage?

A: California’s investor owned utilities are making changes to time-of-use (TOU) rates, shifting peak demand periods generally from 12 pm – 6 pm to 4 pm – 9 pm. This means that solar alone will yield less cost savings unless it is coupled with energy storage. Given this change, it’s more important than ever for solar developers to augment their solutions with energy storage to help customers manage peak demand.

We’re also seeing new customers and a lot more activity in Massachusetts due to the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program. SMART program incentives make it extremely economical to add energy storage to a commercial or community solar PV project—it can pay for a significant portion of the system. Developers that add solar plus storage are also eligible for the Massachusetts ITC, so the benefits are cumulative.

More encouraging for developers is the recent compromise on the ownership of capacity rights for SMART-based energy storage projects and connected net-metered solar. The agreement ensures energy storage developers the right to bid their facilities into the forward capacity market, and the option to buy out the capacity rights for connected solar facilities, making these projects more financially feasible for developers. (See “Compromise Clears Path for Major Massachusetts Solar and Storage Incentive,” on greentechmedia.com.)