Israeli startup Yeloha is looking to change the way we consume energy, based on a peer-to-peer approach.

Yeloha taps into the sharing economy to popularise solar power use

Israel-based startup Yeloha is on a mission to enable everyone to benefit from solar energy – including those people who are not in a position to install their own solar panels. The company claims to be about to set up the first solar power-sharing network in the world. The underlying idea is to alter the approach to generating electricity and change the way customers pay for their power consumption.

Although increasing numbers of people are using solar power nowadays, this energy source still suffers from a number of limitations. For example, you cannot tap directly into solar energy unless you own your house, your roof is suitable for installing solar panels and – even more basic – unless you have the funds to pay the substantial installation cost.

Yeloha is now planning to ‘disrupt’ the current system by using a peer-to-peer model to enable anyone and everyone to access solar energy. Anyone who is interested first needs to register on the Yeloha site as a ‘Sun Host’ or a ‘Sun Partner’. A ‘Sun Host’ is someone who has a house that is suitable for a solar panel installation. Yeloha installs the solar panel system at no charge to the home-owner. The homeowner receives credit for one third of the energy produced by the solar panels, and the remaining two thirds of the power is available for distribution to ’Sun Partners’. These might for instance be people renting a house, residents of an apartment block, or people who quite simply would prefer not to have a rather intrusive installation on their roof. Yeloha allows these subscribers to pay for a portion of the solar energy generated by the host’s solar system at a price that ensures they see a reduction on their total utility bill, saving money overall. Yeloha claims that its P2P system could enable ‘Sun Partners’ to save around 10% a year versus market prices for electricity.

For the moment the Yeloha system is only available in the state of Massachusetts, but the startup intends eventually to spread their offer throughout the whole of the United States, targeting as many people as possible. The United States represents an ideal starting point for the firm since the US saw its solar energy installed capacity increase by 34% in 2014 over 2013, with the consequence that the cost of solar energy for individual customers and households has fallen by 45% since 2010.

Optimistic forecasts for solar power uptake by 2017

Although Yeloha has been called ‘the Airbnb of energy’, the company’s ultimate goal is nevertheless not simply to help subscribers to make financial savings by consuming solar power but rather to expand the use of ‘clean’ energy. It is an encouraging sign that Yeloha’s Israeli parent company Generaytor Inc. has just raised $3.5 million in a Series A round. These funds are earmarked to enable the launch of the solar-sharing network in the States.

This initiative is however not the only game in town. In 2014, Austin, Texas-based startup Gridmates came up with a model to help people share electricity, with the long-term aim of eliminating energy poverty worldwide.

By Anthéa Delpuech