Despite being one of the countries in Europe with the most hours of sunshine, Spain has extremely low levels of household solar installations. Madrid-based Samara, a startup founded in May this year — which is launching a service in its home market today — wants to change that, spotting what it believes is a major opportunity to accelerate the market’s transition to renewable energy.
The startup has just closed €2 million in pre-seed funding to develop technology to simplify the process for households of installing solar energy systems, batteries and EV chargers, as well as developing digital tools for householders to manage their usage. The round is led by European and LatAm VC firm, Seaya, and Pelion Green Future, an investment holding focused on clean energy and climate tech.
Samara’s approach looks similar to Berlin-based Zolar, which offers an online configurator to help householders choose a photovoltaic system to buy or rent and other digital energy products, as well as connecting them with a network of local installers to carry out the work.
“We want to really simplify adoption of solar by customers,” says Samara co-founder, Iván Cabezuela. “That means simplifying the experience using software and technology to create easier customer proposals, easier projects — like customers can see where the panels will fit at their home with 3D design, and see what their savings would be, and things like that.”
This will include building an installer management app for the third party installers Samara intends its platform to work with.
Samara’s other co-founder, Manel Pujol, points to how much more mature Germany’s solar household market is compared to Spain — but he says they’re hopeful their home market can catch up and capitalize on all the plentiful Spanish sunshine.
“In Spain there is a massive gap between the penetration you would expect from a country like Spain and some other countries in Europe,” he tells TechCrunch, citing figures from last year when there were only around 70,000 solar installations completed in the country vs some 1.5 million in Germany. (For a little more context, Spain has around 6M households in total.)
“It actually means that 99.6% of the market is still untapped,” adds Cabezuela.
Samara’s co-founders say the reason for Spain lagging on household solar installation boils down to a lack of a supportive legal framework — with, until 2020, no clear regulation allowing householders to sell excess energy produced by solar panels back to the grid, for example. Additionally, distribution and transportation taxes were actually applied to solar energy generated by households — creating a disincentive to adopt clean energy by further undermining unit economics.
Regulatory barriers essentially meant Spain’s domestic solar market was capped until very recently. And that historical underdevelopment means the market has a relative lack of solar installation companies focused on the residential sector — with only around 1,000 such small businesses at this point.
However Samara’s co-founders argue that’s another key piece of the opportunity they have in front of them now.
“The way the actual process [of delivering residential solar] is done has a lot of room for improvement,” argues Pujol. “From how you simulate the production at the home, the software that you use, how you do these estimates, how you present that information to the customer and how you capture them essentially with that information. But it also has to do, longer term, with what is the …….