GERMANY: Shell trains builders in solar installation and offers exclusive contracts

Shell aims to achieve 30% share of Germany's growing solar energy market by 2005. To that end, it is training electricians and roofers and offering them exclusive contracts to install Shell solar systems.

“We had the idea to market to electricians and roofers towards the end of last year and included it in our strategy this year,” Dr Frithjof Kublik, vice president of Shell Solar, told edie. We sent out direct mail and we got tremendous feedback – a much higher response than you normally get from direct mail.”

Shell then offered free initial seminars on its solar systems with further seminars offered for a low fee. “About 200 to 300 medium-sized electrician and roofing companies have been trained thus far,” said Kublik, “and by the end of the year we should have 70 contracts. We train the tradesmen first, then we tell them that they can have an exclusive contract with us.”

Builders opting for Shell Solar contracts are given regional exclusivity and install in Shell’s name. “They really can’t go wrong,” said Kublik. Contracted builders are supported by four regional centres where Shell Solar technical and marketing staff can assist them. The regional centres also act as retail outlets, promoting the solar message to the public. For instance, an outlet in Dusseldorf maintains a high profile with its location – 50 metres from the main train station.

Although Shell is optimistic about the future demand for solar energy in Germany, the challenges are also apparent. Shell would like to see a substantially increased subsidy for solar energy entering the German electricity grid, and an increased awareness on the part of the German public that the type of energy they buy is of importance. Germans are being told that the liberalisation of the energy sector will mean cheaper energy, but Pieter Berkhout, chairman of Deutsche Shell, believes that the environmental impact of energy should be as much of a consideration as price. “One of the new, cheap products being advertised is 70% nuclear power, generated in France,” said Berkhout.

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