Otovo, the Norwegian solar cell company that is conquering Europe

Article taken from the June 2022 issue of Forbes Italia. Subscribe!

R.Making the switch to solar panels as easy as buying a pair of sneakers online. It is an ambitious mission that Andreas Thorsheim, Simen Fure Jørgensen, Lars Syse Christiansen and Andreas Bentzen set out when in 2016 in Oslo they decided to enter the solar cell market for homes by founding Autumn. Their idea was simple enough to say, but not easy to realize: to be able to bring photovoltaic systems onto the roofs of all houses in Europe. From the very beginning, the march was the right one: In the first year of operation, the company conquered 50% of the Norwegian market. Strengthened by vertical growth, the four founders decided to take Otovo beyond national borders, first in Sweden, then in Spain, France, Germany, Poland and finally in Italy, making their reality the most present in Europe on the market. production of solar panels.

Since February 2021, Otovo has been listed on the Euronext Growth Exchange in Oslo with a capitalization of 200 million euros. At the beginning of 2022, it raised € 30 million in the markets to continue its expansion process. Portugal, the United Kingdom and Austria are now in the spotlight. Outside the continent’s borders, however, the company has started a joint venture in Brazil with a local company.

Oslo Headquarters leaves ample freedom of decision to each of the European offices, with the awareness that each market has its own rules and that there must be freedom to grow and operate differently according to specific needs. This is also the case for Otovo Italia, which has been officially active since April 2021. “We are a very young team, not only because we have recently launched”, says the general manager Fabio Stefanini. “The average age of our 45 employees is 28 years, with an excellent gender balance: We have more than 50% women, and there is a lot of attention paid to ensuring that the situation remains the same.”

Solar cell systems in Italy

In Italy, Otovo has found a fast-growing market, but with still untapped potential. “Although the country can on average expect more than two thousand hours of sunshine a year (2,600 in the south), less than 10% of potential Italian roofs have a photovoltaic system installed,” says Stefanini. The first obstacle encountered by a customer intending to switch to solar cell is of a bureaucratic nature. Despite the generous incentives that the state promotes, such as 50% bonus or 110% super bonus, it can still be very difficult to install a system. You need to find permits, apply for benefits, find an available installer with affordable prices and choose the right hardware.

To overcome these obstacles, Otovo takes care of all aspects of authorization and incentives and provides a quote in a few minutes, which is the result of the cost comparison for all the installers working for the company in the customer’s geographical area. “We work with around 150 partner installers, which allows us to offer our service throughout the national territory. Once they become our partners, they communicate their costs to us in a very detailed way, allowing us to activate an instant auction system every time we receive a request from a customer.The customer signs the contract with us, so the obligation is on the part of Otovo, which offers the customer a ten-year warranty on installation (in addition to the guarantees offered by hardware manufacturers, which vary between ten and 25 years) “The customer therefore does not have to spend time asking for different offers to find the best offer. In fact, he has to sign and wait for the installation times. Otovo takes care of the rest”.

The energy storage system

Otovo has also focused on Italy to innovate. In fact, our country has been a forerunner in the launch of storage systems in combination with solar cells, a technology that makes it possible to store energy. How? “It is clear that solar radiation is higher during the day, and therefore more energy is produced, but many people spend the day outside the home,” Stefanini explains. “Unused energy is usually returned to the electricity grid and made available to other users. With our complete lithium battery systems, we give the customer the opportunity to store the energy produced. So he can also enjoy it in the evening, or when he needs it ”. This technology allows the customer to increase the share of own consumption from 40-50% of the photovoltaic system alone up to 90%, which drastically reduces the consumption in the bill.

However, not everyone is aware of the benefits of photovoltaic systems. According to Stefanini, in Italy there is very often a lack of awareness of the economic as well as environmental benefit of installing a solar panel system. “To take a concrete example, for a 5KW photovoltaic system that is useful to cover the needs of an average family, the cost (minus the housing bonus) is around five thousand euros. The payback period at this time is four years. We are talking about an annual return of 25 % ”.

Teaching about photovoltaic systems

Rising commodity and energy prices due to the outbreak of war in Ukraine and inflation have made the need to rely on new sources of supply even more apparent. The new international economic and geopolitical context is accelerating consumers’ awareness of the use of renewable energy. Otovo’s mission to bring solar cells to the roofs of every home in Europe is now even more important. “A dedicated team is specifically responsible for providing information on the solar cell theme,” says Stefanini. “They are not solar cell experts, but guys who study the content, digest it and communicate it in a way that is understandable to everyone. We believe that information and awareness are a fundamental element in facilitating the transition to photovoltaic systems. ”

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