‘We see solar as the future’: IKEA sets up ‘Solar Shops’

‘We see solar as the future’: IKEA sets up ‘Solar Shops’

The privately-owned Swedish furniture giant IKEA has announced it is offering branded ‘Solar Shops’ selling solar panels to customers in the U.K, despite huge government cuts to solar subsidies for homeowners. “At IKEA we believe that renewable energy is undoubtedly the power of the future,” said Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainability at IKEA U.K. and Ireland. 

This is the company’s second foray into this market, and coincides with its active stance on sustainability and advocacy on action by all governments on renewable energy. In the United States, IKEA has been among those companies that came out earlier this month in support of President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan via so-called ‘amicus briefs’ to the court, representing views of businesses that are not directly involved, but have an interest in the outcome. 

IKEA joined Mars Inc., Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE), Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) in making arguments in support of the EPA. 

While the technology companies argued that delaying action on renewable energy would cost them - as some of the largest purchasers of power in the U.S. – on multiple fronts, IKEA joined others in its brief with the argument that its business would be harmed if emissions from power generation are not cut.

“Climate change is one of the most significant challenges we face … we look at renewables as an opportunity to hedge our energy costs,” said Rob Olson, U.S. Chief Financial Officer for IKEA. 

The company’s decision to have a second attempt in the U.K. at selling solar panels direct to the consumer appears to reflect a view that it is both meeting a need and encouraging a trend: research it has just conducted suggests that a third (33 percent) of U.K. homeowners would like to invest in solar panels for their homes.

The Swedish company ran a two-year pilot on solar panels with Chinese company Hanergy, which ended last year. It is now working with Solarcentury, one of the oldest solar companies in the world as a business partner to provide solar expertise and to supply local installers from its network for IKEA customers who wish to purchase solar for their homes. 

A new record was set this month in the U.K. for just 24 hours, when the elusive sun provided British homes and businesses with more power than coal-fired power stations. 

IKEA’s decision is also an important one for its brand. A study conducted by global advertising agency Havas last year suggested that it pays off when brands invest time and effort to connect with their customers. It was rated among the top 10 companies by the report. 

Against the backdrop of the Paris Agreement, all businesses are likely to be keeping a watchful eye on the enthusiasm of consumers the world over for renewable energy. 

In the U.S., the solar market is set to grow 119 percent this year, according to GTM Research in its latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report 2015 Year in Review, published in conjunction with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). 

GTM Research forecasts 16 gigawatts (GW) of solar will be installed in the U.S. in 2016, more than doubling the record-breaking 7.3 GW installed in 2015. While the bulk of this will be utility-scale installations, the residential and commercial markets are also set to see strong growth, it suggests.

Dina Medland is an independent writer, editor and commentator with a strong focus on issues around corporate governance, ethics, the workings of the boardroom and sustainable business. She is on the team of contributors to @ForbesEurope and is an ex-Financial Times staff member who has been a regular contributor in recent years. Further details about her background and a portfolio of work – including her commercially sponsored blog ‘Board Talk’ are available on her website http://www.dinamedland.com

Originally published on April 27, 2016