Citizenre, a renewable energy development company based in Delaware, U.S. has launched a program that lets customers rent solar photovoltaic systems for specified periods of time. Users pay a per-kilowatt fee that replaces the normal bill from the local utility.
The monthly rate is locked in when the 1, 5 or 25-year contract is signed, so as energy prices go up participants are likely to save money while significantly reducing their output of greenhouse gases. The rental program, called REnU, is billed as a cost-effective response to the challenges many would-be solar users face when confronted with the high costs of solar system equipment, installation, and maintenance. The program’s only upfront charge is a security deposit of roughly US$500, which is paid back—with interest—at the end of the contract.
Citizenre is offering their program in all but nine U.S. states that have adopted net metering laws that allows users of grid-tied renewable energy systems to receive retail credit for at least a portion of the electricity they generate.
Under the REnU program, solar energy captured during the day is fed into the grid and pulled back out again for use at night. Although the systems won’t be ready to install until September, thousands of homeowners have already begun signing contracts.
Would-be solar users in Africa face the same kind of problem that Citizenre appears to have solved--high upfront costs of PV equipment, installation and maintenance. The 'PV-for-Africa ' movement has been talking about adopting this "fee-for-service" solution for years. Though success stories are somewhat scarce, one South African company called Nura
has quietly been seemed to be making significant progress with this model.
NuRa has a total of 60 employees led by a local management team that is supported by RAPS. Six energy stores have been opened and they have 6,000 satisfied customers. In August 2004 a 20-year contract was signed with the South African government, under which 8,000 SHS will be subsidised over a period of two years...NuRa's current target is to reach the break-even point with 14,000 SHS.
and NuRa are good examples is an example of what the private sector can do to expand access to energy services based on clean, renewable technologies. But they need friendly governments willing to invest public resources in support of innovative private operators.
Update: Since writing this article, i have made two surprise discoveries. First, NuRa's Website appears to be down. The URL points to the home page of 'Flux' rather than NuRA. Second, it seems NuRA lost their contract with the South African government some years ago! I have so far been unable to contact NuRa representatives to find out more about what happened/is happening.