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Going global with a solar system for rent | Interview with Mario Kohle, Founder and CEO of Enpal

Against the backdrop of the ongoing energy crisis, consumers are increasingly looking for alternative, eco-friendly electricity sources. It’s a backlash to rising energy prices, energy insecurity, and the awareness that we need to look for more sustainable options for the good of our planet.

German startup, Enpal, has been tapping into a growing demand for solar power systems as Europe’s energy transition unfolds.

Currently, Enpal has over 40k “solar systems for rent” installed in Germany and gaining 2,000 new solar energy systems installations per month. Since its 2017 launch, it made impressive profits for the first time last year, with revenue of more than €400 M.

After a recent €215 million Series D funding that places its valuation at €2.2 billion, Enpal is poised to take on the world with its solar system offering that allows customers to rent the system from the beginning, without money upfront. It makes solar power more accessible and empowers more of us to transition to this energy source.

We caught up with Mario Kohle, Enpal’s CEO & Founder about how Enpal is fulfilling its vision of creating a global renewable-energy community, its hiring and expansion plans, the biggest challenges in solar energy production and consumption and more.

Congrats on your recent funding! How are you putting these investments to work?

We are thrilled to have won the trust of high-calibre partners and to have secured extensive growth capital, especially during challenging macroeconomic times like these. It leaves us very humble, but more eager than ever to deliver on our vision to connect humanity to become a renewable community.

Last year we have crossed 400 million EUR in revenues while also finishing the year profitably for the first time. The latest funding will enable us to continue our profitable growth plan, add new products, expand to new markets, and further develop our multi-awarded smart energy platform. Simply put: The fresh capital puts us in the unique position to grow faster and stronger in 2023 and beyond.

You set an ambitious target of installing one million solar power systems on German roofs by 2030. How would you go about doing this?

Until this day, we have installed more than 40,000 solar power systems in Germany. We have experienced an increased demand in solar power systems, especially in the last year. Now, we are installing more than 2,000 solar panels every month. If you think about the growth journey we already had in the past years and all the ambitious people that are working to make that happen every day, I am pretty sure we will be able to achieve our goal by 2030.

How does Enpal’s approach make solar power more accessible, especially on a financial level? 

Solar energy is much cheaper than fossil fuels! That’s why your own solar system, whether rented or purchased, is an economically sound investment. With solar energy, you save money in the long run. If you replace your combustion car with an electric car, and then charge it with electricity from your own roof, you will save around 80% on fuel costs. That is unbeatable.

Energy crisis, interest rates hike, geopolitical uncertainty, etc. – how are these affecting Enpal’s pricing and bottom line? How is Enpal responding/adapting?

Since February 24, 2022, many people have understood that they want to become independent of fossil energy and rising prices: with their own solar system, an e-car, and a heat pump. Fossil energy has become much more expensive, and solar energy is cheaper. Above all, one becomes more independent from the bill of the corporations and from uncertain market developments. Rising interest rates and supply shortages make solar more expensive, but still your energy from your own roof is cheaper than gas station, natural gas heating and fossil electricity. For your wallet, solar energy is therefore a worthwhile investment – and for the climate anyway.

If you are to pick one big challenge in energy production and consumption to solve, which one would it be and how would you go about solving it?

I would pick two challenges that are slowing down all efforts of advancing the renewable energy sector:

Bureaucracy and PV manufacturing

First, bureaucracy costs us and our customers a lot of time, money and nerves.

In my opinion, we should free solar energy from bureaucracy. Especially when it comes to the complex grid operator registration or technical regulations for smart meters. That leads to numerous applications and months of waiting. In Germany, anyone who wants to put a solar system on their roof must get through a bureaucratic paper war beforehand. Solar energy systems that could have been producing electricity long ago are thus at a standstill for months. We currently employ 80 people in our grid operations team, only to solve the bureaucracy for our customers. This should be faster and easier!

Localize PV manufacturing

The market for solar is growing significantly worldwide: although China dominates the world market for solar cells, there is a lot of potential for Europe to secure a share of the huge global market. Recently, the USA has given the starting signal for the development of its own solar industry with the Inflation Reduction Act. What we can conclude from that, is the fact that Europe should act now to not miss this market.

After Germany, where are you headed next? 

As the climate crisis does not stop at borders, we are planning to expand across the globe, with a kick-off in Europe. Stay tuned to find out where exactly we are heading next.

Maricel Sanchez
Maricel Sanchez
Maricel Sanchez has over 10 years of experience in various fields including trading, supply chain management, logistics and manufacturing. As well as helping startups to raise funds, she is an award-winning public speaker and the current President of Toastmasters Nice, a bilingual club that promotes public speaking and leadership.

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