“Commercial installations are having a large impact”

10/2/17, 11:16 AM -

The first two quarters of 2017 and the last few months of 2016 have clearly shown that the market is on the rise. On the one hand, this is caused by falling prices for components, but also by an increasingly positive press and advertising for photovoltaics. Recently, even the utilities are joining in. PV is increasingly becoming acceptable again, and even the last misgivings are noticeably disappearing. Solar expert Alexander Schütt of BayWa r.e. talks about latest market trends. In this interview he gives detailed insight in the wholesaler’s PV business.

Alexander Schütt is the CEO of BayWa r.e. Solar Energy Systems.
Alexander Schütt is the CEO of BayWa r.e. Solar Energy Systems.

How has 2017 been in terms of business?

Alexander Schütt: PV is increasingly becoming acceptable again, and even the last misgivings are noticeably disappearing. A very recent push has come from electric mobility. Customers are interested in e-cars and plug-in hybrids. Combining that with a solar array on the roof and a larger storage battery in the building creates a great arrangement that has a lot to offer: A personal eco-power filling station for your EV. We are convinced that this will give PV another push over the next few years.

What role are commercial installations playing for your trading operations?

Commercial installations up to 750 kilowatts are having a large impact. Demand for our commercial-scale installations has more than doubled. We are talking about on the order of a few hundred kilowatts per installation.

How about beyond the German market in the rest of Europe?

We are doing very well in the Low Countries. We recently opened a new sales office in the Netherlands. We are also very hopeful when it comes to the French market; we opened a trading branch in Bordeaux, because this market is clearly growing. In Switzerland, too, PV is unstoppable; the Swiss people overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Energy Strategy 2050. The Polish market is also interesting; we have a sales office there as well. In general, the European markets are gaining momentum both in the residential segment and for commercial installations – even for those above one megawatt.

How are wholesalers such as BayWa r.e. positioning themselves on this fiercely competitive market?

We take care of warehousing, sales and processing for producers who manufacture and market their products in large numbers. Only by producing in large volumes can anyone keep pace in the struggle over prices. On the other hand, we as retailers also provide our customers with all the components for a PV installation: from solar panels to inverters and mounting systems all the way to storage batteries and charge points. Furthermore, we offer assistance in designing a PV installation that fits the customer’s needs and deliver it to the place specified by the installing company. And this for both small and large-scale installations. In other words, a ‘one-stop shop’ for installing companies that offers a wide range of quality products. That is why retailers like us are needed: Establishing their own sales channels, keeping all the necessary products for a PV installation available, providing assistance with its technical design and keeping track of the logistics that can be very detailed can be challenging to component manufacturers.

Being in a position to supply, requires you have to build up some sophisticated logistics. How are you managing that?

We try to stock anything that our customers might need to order from us. We have supplies valued on the order of tens of millions of euros in stock and our aim is to always be able to deliver at as short a notice as possible. When an order comes in, the parts usually leave our warehouse the very next da. To make ordering goods even more convenient for our customers, we will soon create an online shop. (The interview was conducted by Heiko Schwarzburger.)

Alexander Schütt is the CEO of BayWa r.e. Solar Energy Systems GmbH who are involved in PV retail. His professional career already started during his studies of business management in Nürtingen. He later also graduated in engineering in Mannheim. Now 41, he then started out as vice-president for sales and procurement at Celadon (mobile phone sector) in New York. In 2008 he joined BayWa r.e., where he was involved in the sales of PV products. Between 2010 and 1013, he was head of product management and as of 2013 he has been the CEO of BayWa r.e. Solar Energy Systems.

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