Fenster and Jurich, co-founders of the San Francisco-based solar company Sunrun, met while attending business school at Stanford University, and quickly realized that they both had an interest in using their skills to shake up the energy industry.
“We recognized that we could encourage Americans to go solar by making it easy and affordable, and we wanted to do for home solar what cellphone companies did for telecom,” says Fenster. “To that end, we used our business and finance expertise to take the high costs and hassle out of residential solar.”
Jurich concurs: “What if, we thought, homeowners could simply pay for the power they use, rather than paying $30,000 or more to purchase panels?”
Fenster and Jurich, who serve respectively as CEO and president of Sunrun, were told originally that the business model, which apparently worked well in the commercial solar industry, would not succeed in the residential arena. Hearing this spurred Fenster and Jurich to work harder to achieve their goal, because they knew they had a concept with tremendous potential if executed correctly.
The business plan they settled on looks like this: Sunrun owns, insures, monitors and maintains the solar panels on a homeowner's roof, while families pay a low rate for clean energy and fix their electric costs for 20 years.
Since they introduced this solar power service five years ago, it has become the preferred way for consumers to go solar in the nation’s leading solar markets. More than 20,000 homeowners in 10 states have chosen Sunrun and they install about $1.5 million in solar equipment every day.
Sounds like a lot? It is but the market has a lot more potential. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, solar provides less than 1 percent of electricity in the U.S.
This leads Fenster and Jurich to see tremendous future growth in Sunrun, not only in the company’s current markets, but across the country.
“Our plans are to continue to serve homeowners in the states where we currently operate, and push to expand where and when it makes sense,” Jurich explains.
“We believe widespread adoption of home solar will significantly improve life in cities by phasing out polluting coal plants, eliminating miles of ugly new transmission lines, and ensuring cleaner, healthier lives. With that in mind, our mission is to advance the industry to the point that, within ten years, rooftop solar can power millions of homes and homeowners across the world will understand they can choose a clean alternative to their utility. With the right infrastructure in place, home solar will be recognized publicly as affordable, easy, and smart, and every new home built in the developed world can have clean energy sources built into it.”
Get inspired: Learn about others who are making a difference with MNN's Innovation Generation project.