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‘Amazing’ Opportunity: Electrifying the Developing World With Solar

Clean Energy Advisors is a sponsor of the Your Mark on the World Show.


You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.
Back in the 1930s, the United States remained largely a rural country, with almost half of the population still living in rural communities–without electricity. Electrifying rural America was a key part of the New Deal. The key then was distribution of electricity generated in utility-scale plants.

Today, the world is in a race to electrify rural communities in the developing world. This presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors around the world, say Chris Warren, CEO of Clean Energy Advisors, and Erik Melang, co-founder of Distributive Solar.

Unlike the New Deal-era effort to electrify rural America, today’s electrification efforts run the full gamut from solar lamps charged by day and used at night to utility-scale projects that connect to the grid.

Entrepreneurs around the world are getting in on the act. India has organized incentives and entrepreneurial support programs to for solar projects.

d.light, among others, offers a range of solar products in Africa, including solar lamps at the bottom and “modern, grid-like solar power systems for homes and businesses” at the top. Akon has installed 1,200 micro-grids across Africa. Utilities across Africa have built or bought power from solar developers who have built utility-scale projects.

Erik points out that the “market opportunity is huge.” He says, this is an “amazing opportunity for the world to invest in Africa.” He explains that in the developing world, homes can initially meet all of their needs with systems that produce fewer than 100 watts of power, while in the U.S. the average household uses 3 to 5 kilowatts, or 30 to 50 times as much.

The implications are important. A little bit of solar power can go a long way in changing and improving lives in Africa–which they can readily afford as they shift from kerosene to solar lighting. Many of the systems deployed at the household level use a pay-as-you-go model. The consumers pay for the power the solar panel generates rather than needing to buy the panel up front.

The other key implication is that as African affluence grows, the average household demand for electricity will grow until it eventually approaches the U.S. level. In other words, the business of providing solar power in the developing world will continue to grow faster than the U.S. economy for the next several decades.

Chris Warren, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

Chris Warren, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

Chris notes, too, that because much of the need in Africa is off-grid, systems don’t need to work with the grid, simplifying installation and reducing costs, compared with typical U.S. installations that need to work with the grid.

On Thursday, January 19, 2017 at noon Eastern, Chris and Erik will join me here for a live discussion about opportunities in solar in the developing world. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Clean Energy Advisors:

Twitter: @ceacleanenergy

Clean Energy Advisors is a private equity firm focused on creating socially and environmentally positive ownership opportunities for investors in utility scale solar energy projects that generate tax advantaged predictable income and preserve capital.

Chris’s bio:

Twitter: @ceocleanenergy

Chris Warren has over twenty-five years of experience in the financial industry and along the way he has acquired a unique set of skills and experiences through roles that include managing assets for high net worth investors, leading a major division of a Fortune 500 company, building three successful businesses from inception, and overseeing complex financial arrangements for over US $860 million in renewable energy assets. Mr. Warren is a graduate of Duke University. His technical training includes a Certification in Renewable Energy Management from North Carolina State University and training in Basic and Advanced Solar PV Design from Solar Energy International.

Erik Melang, courtesy of Distributive Solar

Erik Melang, courtesy of Distributive Solar

More about Distributive Solar:

Twitter: @distrsolar

Commercial Solar Origination. Recruiting, training and supporting commercial solar consultants to present the economic, branding and environmental benefits of going solar to commercial business owners.

Erik’s bio:

Twitter: @espmel

Erik Melang is a Co-Founder of Distributive Solar and oversees the firms Recruiting, training and support of Independent Sales Representatives. Erik previously served as Managing Director of Impact Partners, where he led impact strategies initiatives and renewable energy private equity investments. It is in this role that Erik was drawn to the amazing business opportunity around Commercial Solar Origination. The industry is in the early stages of mass adoption and Commercial Business Owners are realizing the tremendous economic benefits of deploying solar panels on their rooftops. Erik is an Appalachian State MBA with strong desire to learn and teach and is an avid follower of everything solar and all things “Impact.” Erik’s interest include Clean Energy, Fishing, Snow Skiing, Travel , Guitar Pickin’ and is a child adoption advocate.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

How Will President Trump Impact Solar Energy Development? The Answer Will Surprise You!

Clean Energy Advisors sponsors the work of the Your Mark on the World Center, including this publication.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

According to the Washington Post, the U.S. solar industry is expecting to shatter records for new solar power, with 4,143 megawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity added in the third quarter alone.

The Solar Energy Industries Association and market analysis firm GTM Research, just published its “U.S. Solar Market Insight” report. The executive summary is available for free here.

The summary notes, “Between Q1 and Q3 2016, solar accounted for 39% of all new electric generating capacity brought on-line in the U.S, ranking second only to natural gas as the largest source of new capacity additions.”

Most of the growth, according to the report, is in utility scale projects rather than retail rooftop solar.

Clean Energy Advisors, or CEA, invests in small utility-scale solar projects in North Carolina.

Despite the rosy report, people reasonably wonder about the prospect for renewable energy under President-Elect Trump, who has appointed climate change skeptics to head both the EPA and the Department of Energy.

CEA CEO Chris Warren agrees. “The results of the U.S. Presidential election have undoubtedly raised some questions around the future of the renewable energy industry in America. Given President-elect Trump’s campaign rhetoric around support for coal, fracking, the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and his apparent belief that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese, one might assume that the solar industry is in for a rough ride. If this was 2008 I would tend to agree with that assumption.”

He points out that the growth of the industry has been exponential over the past ten years and that portends continued growth.

He says, “This growth which was driven by institutional investor interest in both the stable cash flows and tax attributes available to real assets in the space has changed the landscape in which we operate. In 2008, the price per watt for a solar panel was around $4, today that number is around sixty cents. All of the other major costs associated with solar projects have experienced similar contraction. The net result is an industry that can support itself based on underlying financial returns and not government intervention or incentives.”

“Solar is now at grid parity with fossil fuels in many states across the country and the list continues to grow. While legislative changes at the Federal, state, and local level have in the past created challenges for renewable energy (and in some instances opportunities) the financial returns are driving growth today,” he continued.

Ultimately, Chris has faith that President Trump will make decisions based on facts, not fiction.

“Nobody can accurately predict how a Donald Trump Administration will initially approach alternative energy. What we do know is that once he looks under the hood he will find substance that he probably has no idea exists,” Chris says. “He will find an economic engine that is driving job creation and contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to local economies. He will find an asset class that is widely accepted by the largest financial institutions providing above market rates of return. He will find public support among 90 percent of the American population for advancement in the amount of power we produce from renewable energy.”

“I believe that President Trump will appreciate the reality that renewable energy is here to stay and is indeed the future,” he concluded.

The report predicts that 2016’s expected total increase in solar capacity of 14 gigawatts will grow in future years, topping 20 gigawatts per year by 2020.

Chris Warren, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

Chris Warren, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

On Thursday, December 22, 2016 at 11:00 Eastern, Chris will join me here for a live discussion about the solar industry in the context of the coming Trump administration. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Clean Energy Advisors:

Twitter: @ceacleanenergy

Clean Energy Advisors is a private equity firm focused on creating socially and environmentally positive ownership opportunities for investors in utility scale solar energy projects that generate tax advantaged predictable income and preserve capital.

Chris’s bio:

Twitter: @ceocleanenergy

Chris Warren has over twenty-five years of experience in the financial industry and along the way he has acquired a unique set of skills and experiences through roles that include managing assets for high net worth investors, leading a major division of a Fortune 500 company, building three successful businesses from inception, and overseeing complex financial arrangements for over US $860 million in renewable energy assets. Mr. Warren is a graduate of Duke University. His technical training includes a Certification in Renewable Energy Management from North Carolina State University and training in Basic and Advanced Solar PV Design from Solar Energy International.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

India Creates Opportunities For Social Solar Entrepreneurs

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Upendra Tripathy, recently retired Secretary of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in India, sees tremendous opportunities for social entrepreneurs to play a role in expanding renewable energy there.

Tripathy retired on October 31, 2016 from the top policy position in the Ministry. During his tenure, he oversaw a 400 percent increase in carbon tax in the country. He also led the five-fold increase in the 2022 target for solar power in the country from 20,000 to 100,000 megawatts. While he acknowledges that he is not a social entrepreneur, he notes that he has put policies into place that support social entrepreneurship.

According to freelance writer and creative consultant, Ashok Choudhury, who lives in Delhi, Tripathy has been widely recognized for leading change in the Ministry during his two-and-a-half year tenure.

World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim (L) and Indian Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley (R) pose with Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy Secretary, Upendra Tripathy (2L) and World Bank Country Director, Unno Ruhl (2R) following the signing and exchange of agreement in New Delhi on June 30, 2016.The World Bank Group June 30, signed an agreement with the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to collaborate on increasing solar energy use around the world, with the goal of mobilizing one trillion dollars in investments by 2030. / AFP / PRAKASH SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)

World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim (L) and Indian Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley (R) pose with Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy Secretary, Upendra Tripathy (2L) and World Bank Country Director, Unno Ruhl (2R) following the signing and exchange of agreement in New Delhi on June 30, 2016.The World Bank Group June 30, signed an agreement with the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to collaborate on increasing solar energy use around the world, with the goal of mobilizing one trillion dollars in investments by 2030. / AFP / PRAKASH SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)

Tripathy explains that during his service, the government took three specific actions to support renewable energy entrepreneurship. First, the government set up a regulatory infrastructure to encourage the establishment of micro-grids. Second, policies were created to encourage commercial rooftop solar projects on schools, hospitals and businesses. Third, social entrepreneurs and nonprofits were encouraged to increase their outreach to the public to get the country closer to universal access to electricity.

The last point hints at the underlying motivation for rapid adoption of renewable energy. As India is still a developing country, there are about 300 million people who lack access to electricity. Unlike the U.S., where the primary motivation for renewable energy is to reduce carbon emissions, the need to expand access to electricity is a primary motivator in India.

Choudhury notes that Tripathy organized the 2015 RE-INVEST conference, calling it a “game changer” for entrepreneurs. The conference led to a variety of commitments from both the private and public sector, including plans to build 277 Gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy. The government committed to build 175 GW, including 100 GW of solar, he says.

Choudhury says, “More important was the structuring of the 100 GW of solar into 40 GW in solar parks, 40 GW in rooftop and 20 GW in distributed space. Big entrepreneurs came in to solar parks. Thirty-four solar parks have been sanctioned so far all over India. More are in the pipeline. Rooftop has taken a big leap and many new and small time entrepreneurs are joining the solar journey in the form of channel partners, companies and NGOs.”

Tripathy says there are already about 800 micro grids operating in India. He offers some tips for social entrepreneurs wanting to expand access to electricity using solar and other renewable energy sources in India, especially in rural villages.

First, he says, mini-grid entrepreneurs need to look for anchor tenants with resources to help defray the capital and operating costs so they don’t fall entirely on the poor. He offers examples: “Mobile towers, remote hospitals, or tourist homes if any,” adding, “In such cases, you can cross subsidize the tariff of the poor from your income from the anchor point who can pay more.”

Tripathy points out, “Mobile tower connectivity is a win-win situation. The owners save costly fossil fuel and carbon footprint, create employment and promote energy access.”

His second tip for social entrepreneurs is to scan the environment, referring to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. He says, “Meet peers, join national and sub national platforms, and use ‘Right to Information’ [rules] to understand what all benefits Governments (federal, provincial and local) give to that sector. The financial model should suitably incorporate all these features to make a successful social enterprise.”

Choudhury says, “For India, climate justice is an article of faith. Renewable energy is a part of climate justice as it reduces carbon footprint, brings in investment, creates employment, and secures the future of our future generations.”

On Monday, November 21, 2016 at 10:00 PM Eastern (8:30 Tuesday morning in India), Tripathy will join me for a live discussion about the opportunities being created in India for social entrepreneurs and the benefits they will in turn bring to the 300 million people in India who lack access to electricity. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

USAID Extension Grant Propels Carbon Roots International in its Mission to Improve Lives, Livelihoods, and the Environment in Haiti

This is a guest post from Eric Sorensen, CEO and Co-Founder of Carbon Roots International

What does a $500,000 award extension made possible by the generous support of the American people through USAID mean to Carbon Roots International? More predictable and efficient production of green charcoal for cooking in Haiti, with even less environmental degradation—and acceleration of our mission to create jobs, reduce deforestation, and improve lives in Haiti.

This infusion of capital into our organization is more than just a significant vote of confidence by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is the main U.S. government agency working to end extreme global poverty and helping democratic societies worldwide to reach their potential. It also enables Carbon Roots to purchase, install, and operate new equipment to expand and automate our innovative process for turning agricultural waste into charcoal for cooking. It also puts Carbon Roots on the path to financial sustainability.

Fuel from Agricultural Waste Instead of Trees

Carbon Roots is already the largest charcoal producer in Haiti. While most of us in the United States associate charcoal with backyard barbecues and a pleasant, often festive, alternative to cooking in the kitchen, in Haiti charcoal is serious business. Nine of out 10 households there depend on charcoal or wood for all their cooking, and the reliance on tree wood has turned Haiti into one of the world’s most devastatingly deforested landscapes.

Carbon Roots has developed a process for producing green charcoal briquettes from agricultural waste instead of tree wood. The green charcoal has the added benefits of burning hotter and cleaner than traditional wood charcoal and costing less—without requiring Haitians to change their stoves or cooking methods.

Early in our development, Carbon Roots received valuable guidance and direction from Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. As participants in their Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) program, Carbon Roots was able to refine and improve our business plan, business model, and financial structures.

We sell green charcoal briquettes to customers directly, through wholesalers, and via independent women retailers that Carbon Roots recruits and trains. In addition to the health, cost, and environmental advantages of using green charcoal in their own homes, the women who become retailers learn valuable business skills—plus, they have the opportunity to earn incomes exceeding most other income-generating activities available to women in Haiti.

Two Carbon Roots vendors in Haiti

Two Carbon Roots vendors in Haiti

Taking the Green Charcoal Process to the Next Level

Although Carbon Roots is already helping to combat deforestation and boost the livelihoods of many Haitians—especially our network of independent women retailers—we still lacked a way to improve the efficiency and predictability of the first step of the green charcoal briquette production process: carbonizing the agricultural waste into charcoal dust. That’s where the USAID award extension comes into play.

Now Carbon Roots can afford to purchase and install one Big Char pyrolyzer unit from its Australian manufacturer, Pyrocal. This Big Char unit will serve as a proof of concept to potential investors, who will be needed to fund the purchase of the additional five units we will require for full-scale production.

The Big Char continuous carbonization technology:

  • Automates previously manual steps
  • Provides a steady source of heat that eliminates the need to sun-dry the charcoal dust
  • Can operate even in rainy weather, a serious advantage in monsoon regions such as Haiti
  • Produces less smoke than manual methods

Working with our Miller Center GSBI mentor, we were able to determine how best to proceed with acquiring the Big Char pyrolyzers—starting with a single unit for the pilot program, funded by the USAID grant; moving to full production with multiple pyrolyzers, funded through a mix of debt, lease, and a variable payment option (VPO) investment instrument; and eventually opening a second production facility, funded through a mix of debt and equity.

Our GSBI mentor also helped us refine our financial projections. We determined that two production facilities would produce sufficient internal cash flow to sustain one new factory every year for 10 years. That translates into saving 7 million trees and generating in excess of $50 million in income for poor Haitian women and their families.

As a result of its greater efficiency and ability to operate more days per year, the new Big Char pyrolyzer will allow Carbon Roots to increase our annual volume of green charcoal production while reducing both costs and emissions.

The demand for our green charcoal already outstrips our ability to supply it, and the problem isn’t lack of business resources, our business model, or resistance to our products. The limiting factor has simply been financial resources. We are extremely grateful to USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures for this generous extension award, which will enhance our ability to benefit our wide range of local stakeholders: farmers who monetize waste streams by selling agricultural residues to Carbon Roots; women charcoal retailers who enjoy higher incomes and greater autonomy; and poor Haitians who have access to a cleaner, cheaper, sustainable cooking fuel.

Distributive Solar Hopes to Lead Acceleration of Solar Energy Industry

Solar Site Design is an affiliate of our sponsor Clean Energy Advisors.


You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Social entrepreneur Erik Melang is excited about opportunities in renewable energy and his attitude is not dampened by the election of a President who has not been friendly to the environment. Erik is the founder of Distributive Solar and is partnering with Solar Site Design to accelerate growth in the renewable energy industry.

Erik is excited to share “the phenomenal opportunity to participate in the new energy economy.” He says, “This transition [to renewable energy] is providing a ground floor opportunity to participate in one of the fastest growing sectors on the globe.”

He shares some numbers to make his point: “In fact solar, wind and [energy efficiency] has provided 1 out of 30 [new] jobs in the US since 2009. Solar alone has provided 1 of 80 jobs.”

The transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy will also bring another big shift to distributed power, he says. “We are and will continue to witness the disruptive effects of transitioning from a fossil fuel driven economy to a renewable energy driven economy. This transition will be distributive, where energy will be produced where it is utilized.”

“We will see an end to the monopoly where utilities control the production and distribution of energy,” he continues. “This transition is underway and we are seeing parabolic growth in energy efficiency, wind and solar across the globe. However we are still in the early stages of this transition and this is where the opportunity lies.”

Most business leaders simply don’t know how well solar can work for them, he says. “The overwhelming majority of commercial enterprises in the US have not been shown how to participate in this opportunity. They have yet to realize that the price of solar has dropped some 70% since 2012 making it viable for their business. We are seeing commercial payback periods on solar installations between three to seven years across the country, return of investments exceeding 15 percent over 25 years with the potential for free electricity for decades.”

Erik points out that making business more energy savvy isn’t all about the environment. “This is about economics (reducing operating expenses), remaining competitive and smart business decisions. It is also about being a leader in the community and positioning your brand as a firm who takes sustainability seriously and doing your part in reducing your carbon footprint.”

Erik Melang, courtesy of Distributive Solar

Erik Melang, courtesy of Distributive Solar

He explains how he sees his role in this opportunity, saying, “All of this to say that Solar Site Design (SSD) and Distributive Solar (SD) are aiming to provide an opportunity for renewable energy advocates and business professionals to enter the solar industry and participate in this transition. SSD has built a platform akin to UBER and Airbnb that brings supply and demand together onto a collaborative platform that drives down the cost of solar and a tool to streamline the entire solar installation value chain.”

“DS is focused on growing the supply of viable solar projects by recruiting, training and supporting motivated individuals to help grow this supply of projects,” he continues. “These solar consultants need not be experts, but merely understand the economics of solar as a smart business decision for building owners. Solar prices have plummeted offering business a chance to lower operating cost by utilizing their rooftops for energy production.”

“The outcome of this will be the realization of the new energy economy that is distributive not only in energy production but in economics. We the people will be the owners of our energy production and realize the benefits. This will provide opportunities for all, not just the few as we’ve seen over the past 2 centuries.”

“The other outcome will be a livable planet. A global transition to Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency is the only path for climate change mitigation. We believe that action on climate change and economic growth go hand in hand. We have to begin now. We need you and others to join us and change the world. Contact DS and/or SSD to join this revolution by becoming a solar Consultant.”

He highlights that he is looking for people who want to participate in the renewable energy boom. “We are recruiting individuals everyday to join us. It is only the beginning. Look around in your community. Notice that there are very few business enterprises with rooftop solar. This is changing and will continue to change very fast.”

Erik concludes philosophically, “Regardless of who is in the White House, Statehouse or in control of our utilities, solar is past the point of no return. Solar will flourish and be a part of communities because it is the lowest cost alternative. Evidence is mounting and we are seeing peak energy demand in a lot of the developing world, partly because of slower economic growth, but also through energy efficiency and growing RE capacity. This is soon to be followed by energy storage. This all fosters the hope that together we can make a difference and make our mark on the world.”

On Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, Erik and his colleague at Solar Site Design, Jason Loyet, will join me here for a live discussion about about the rapidly growing renewable power industry and the opportunities there. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Distributive Solar:

Twitter: @distrsolar

Commercial Solar Origination. Recruiting, training and supporting commercial solar consultants to present the economic, branding and environmental benefits of going solar to commercial business owners.

More about Solar Site Design:

Twitter: @solarsitedesign

Since winning the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst Award in 2015, Solar Site Design has focused on solving the next chapter of driving down customer acquisition costs for Commercial and Industrial solar energy projects. After a year of software development, we are proud to announce the newest enhancement to our platform: Solar Site Design Commercial Marketplace.

For three years, Solar Site Design has become a leading recruiter and trainer of Nationwide Commercial Originators. Our Originators have deep relationships in their local market and are able to open doors wide open on highly qualified C&I projects. In addition, our Originators are trained on collecting extensive data at the site through our innovative platform available on Android and IOS.

SSD aggregates the project data entered by service professionals (referral agent), connects the projects to networks of contracted fulfillment partners, thereby reducing customer acquisition costs by up to 50%.

Erik’s bio:

Twitter: @espmel

Erik Melang is a Co-Founder of Distributive Solar and oversees the firms Recruiting, training and support of Independent Sales Representatives. Erik previously served as Managing Director of Impact Partners, where he led impact strategies initiatives and renewable energy private equity investments. It is in this role that Erik was drawn to the amazing business opportunity around Commercial Solar Origination. The industry is in the early stages of mass adoption and Commercial Business Owners are realizing the tremendous economic benefits of deploying solar panels on their rooftops. Erik is an Appalachian State MBA with strong desire to learn and teach and is an avid follower of everything solar and all things “Impact.” Erik’s interest include Clean Energy, Fishing, Snow Skiing, Travel , Guitar Pickin’ and is a child adoption advocate.

Jason Loyet, courtesy of Solar Site Design

Jason Loyet, courtesy of Solar Site Design

Jason’s bio:

Twitter: @jasonloyet

Jason Loyet is an accomplished solar industry entrepreneur, having founded and built three solar companies since 2005. His first company solved bottlenecks in importing solar equipment and streamlined mainline distribution to solar installers. In 2009, he founded and built a $3 million company that provided wholesale solar supply, sales and marketing services to electrical and roofing contractors throughout the United States. In 2013, Mr. Loyet leveraged the powerful capabilities of mobile phones to build an easy way for traditional contractors to add a revenue source to their bottom line by playing an active role in the solar industry. Hence, Solar Site Design was born. Solar Site Design is a collaborative, cloud-based platform that connects highly-qualified solar project referrals to leading solar companies to drive down customer acquisition costs. Our proprietary business process is designed to reduce the solar industry’s customer acquisition costs by up to 50%. Solar Site Design was chosen as a winner of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst Program in May of 2015. Prior to entering the solar industry, Mr. Loyet founded, developed and sold two software companies; a video-streaming service and a photo-sharing platform.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Next Economy: Election Aftermath

By Garvin Jabusch

If you believe in the continuing evolution of the economy towards innovation-driven sustainability and economic coexistence with our fragile earth systems, then this has been a rough week.

So, what happened? We can cite a number of likely reasons behind Trump’s victory, but here are the ones that stood out to us.

  • First, people are extremely angry about the ever-widening economic and social inequality and inequity they have been experiencing the last couple decades, and they can see that the main beneficiaries of this inequality are never held accountable (only one banker jailed after 2008, for example).
  • Second, half of the nation – or 47% of the electorate anyway – has been convinced by an ideology that claims the best way to fight inequality is to pass policies that actually cause more inequality. Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money does an excellent job of explaining how this happened.

Unfortunately, this ideology has negative implications for the Next Economy. Next Economics at its core reflects the ongoing process of de-risking the global economy of its most serious long-term threats, those being the worst outcomes of climate change, resource scarcity, and widening inequality. The risk of inequality itself has now driven an election result that will slow progress on managing all real systemic risks.

We’ve always said that U.S. political risk is one of the scariest things about managing for the Next Economy, because so much policy and business is driven by the owners of legacy economy energies, utilities, transportation and so on. “The next president has questioned the science of climate change, vowed to withdraw from the Paris agreement on global warming and pledging to stimulate production of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel,” is how Bloomberg put it. Meanwhile, many of the world’s leading institutions (the World Economic Forum at Davos, for one) still cite climate change and the erosion of social cohesion as the most dangerous and pressing economic risks confronting the world. The global economy can, must and will rise to meet these challenges.

The transition to an economy based on businesses that are more efficient, less risky, and more profitable remains inevitable; and the realities of the global economy’s exposure to climate and social risks remain the same. Much of the world still understands this, and a Trump presidency will set back U.S. technological and political progress behind the rest of the world, at least temporarily. As Michael Liebreich of Bloomberg New Energy Finance tweeted, “So this is interesting. I will continue to inform decision-makers about the world’s unstoppable transition to clean energy and transport.” Our economic evolution continues, but which nations and regions benefit first and most by taking advantage of the most incredible advances may now be an open question.

Critically as well, America’s most economically powerful states – led by New York and California – will continue to support sustainable technology and renewable energies in pursuit of greater economic growth. Indeed, we did see some bright spots the other night: Florida solar advocates celebrated a major win as voters rejected a utility-backed amendment to limit solar energy development. It is unlikely that wind energy in America will suffer much either: “Seventy percent of U.S. turbines are in low-income rural areas,” according to Bloomberg, saying, “Wind Is the New Corn for Struggling Farmers.” In fact, the five states generating the largest fraction of their electricity from wind all voted for Trump. The economic, health and other benefits of clean, renewable energies are winning despite political rhetoric.

We need to continue investing in the zero-risk economy, and we still stand to earn outsize returns as the Next Economy gains market share away from the legacy economy. The investment decisions affecting climate change we make collectively and globally in the next few years will reverberate for centuries and affect billions of people. A Trump presidency does nothing to change that.

In the long run, economics drive the future and policy follows, not the other way around. Coal isn’t in terminal decline for any reason other than it is no longer economically competitive; solar isn’t the fastest-growing energy source in the world because of the Paris Accords, but because it is incredibly economically competitive. No administration can change that. They can only make it more or less timely.

The road ahead may not be as smooth as we once imagined, but we still got this.

Garvin Jabusch is cofounder and chief investment officer of Green Alpha®Advisors, LLC. He is co-manager of the Shelton Green Alpha Fund (NEXTX), of the Green Alpha Next Economy Index, and of the Sierra Club Green Alpha Portfolio. He also authors the Sierra Club’s economics blog, “Green Alpha’s Next Economy.”

Operation Water Addresses Clean Water Crisis With Scale

With 700 million people on this planet lacking access to clean water, Ryan Phillips-Page, founder of Operation Water, felt that he address water access at scale.

He explains that access to water goes well beyond the need for an adequate supply of clean drinking water. “Almost 1 in 10 people globally lack access to clean drinking water, with women and children disproportionately suffering. The ripple effect of poor health, inadequate hygiene, and lost educational and economic opportunities, traps the most marginalized in a cycle of poverty and disease.”

Operation Water is using innovative financing structures to implement large scale water projects. Ryan says, “We engage governments, utilities and contractors to execute scalable, socially critical water infrastructure projects on a Public-Private Partnership basis, utilizing an innovative funding structure that raises debt at attractive rates from Development Finance Institutions and Export Credit Agencies. From project sourcing to deal execution to construction, the goal is ultimately the provision of sustainable, affordable access to potable water.”

Ryan identifies two big challenges. The first challenge is that of breaking a new trail. “Our vision is ambitious in size and scope; we are charting a path that has not been walked before in terms of social impact water infrastructure development.”

Second, he notes, is the cultural complexity the organization faces. “In addition, across the developing world, a multitude of national, cultural and economic differences creates a complex environment to navigate.”

He acknowledges limitations in their work associated with their efforts to scale solutions up: they can’t help people in small, remote villages. “Since achieving economies of scale is a paramount objective of ours in order to affect the lives of the most people in need at the lowest cost per person, we are limited in our capacity to efficiently provide access to water to smaller villages in remote areas,” he notes.

Ryan remains committed to the solving the challenges and to bringing clean water to as many as possible. “Access to potable water is essential to a suitable quality of life, and thereby a prerequisite to hope, integrity, and opportunity. Delivering clean water solutions to communities in need will result in healthier, more economically productive, and ultimately happier lives,” he concludes.

On Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 5:00 PM Eastern, Ryan will join me here for a live discussion about the work of operation water. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Ryan Phillips-Page, courtesy of Operation Water

Ryan Phillips-Page, courtesy of Operation Water

More about Operation Water:

Operation Water seeks to deliver clean water solutions to the greatest number of people in need, at the lowest cost per person, by developing scalable infrastructure projects. Major water infrastructure investments build the foundation upon which the most marginalized can escape the cycle of poverty. Providing sustainable access to potable water provides a pathway to mitigating mortality and morbidity while alleviating malnutrition, gender inequality, and disparities in economic opportunity. Drawing on our extensive experience as finance and business development professionals, we resolve to lead the effort to end the global water crisis in the next 30 years, while serving as responsible stewards of capital.

Ryan’s bio:

Prior to founding Operation Water, Ryan was the Founder and Managing Director of RPP Capital Projects and Finance (Pty) Ltd, a company that sources and structures financing solutions for power and water infrastructure projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. In this capacity, he has travelled extensively across Sub-Saharan Africa to meet with Presidents, Ministers, Governors, Director Generals of utilities, and African businessmen to discuss the strategic infrastructure priorities of many African nations. Previously, Ryan served as Director of Facilities and Operations at African Leadership Academy, a world class pan-African boarding high school located in Johannesburg, SouthAfrica. He was African Leadership Foundation’s first staff member and assisted the Founders with networking and fundraising. Prior to moving to South Africa to help launch African Leadership Academy, he served as Vice President of Business Development and Sales at IntellectSpace Corporation, a Seattle-based technology company that serves investment banks, hedge funds, foundations, and law firms. Ryan worked closely with the Founders to develop and execute the Company’s initial sales strategy and successfully built the company’s initial client roster.

Ryan started his career in New York City as an Analyst in the Investment Banking Division of Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. He graduated with honors from Boston College’s Undergraduate Carroll School of Management with a concentration in Finance.

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Turning Sunlight Into Tax Advantaged Income

Clean Energy Advisors sponsors the Your Mark on the World Center which publishes this site.


You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Many people are looking for practical ways to participate in the booming solar energy industry. Clean Energy Advisors, our sponsor, offers a way for accredited investors to participate in solar energy projects.

The Clean Energy Advisors investment model is described in the video below.

We all understand the primary appeal of solar power is that the fuel–sunlight–is free and abundant. CEA uses investors’ capital to fund small utility-scale solar projects. Each project has a contract, typically 25 years, in place to sell solar power. The buyer or “off taker” is obligated to buy all of the power produced during the contract. The off takers are carefully underwritten to assure future cash flows. The off takers are usually utilities who sell the power to commercial and residential customers who otherwise might receive power from nonrenewable sources.

The power purchase agreements or PPAs are structured as fixed rate contracts for the term of the agreements. CEA receives and manages the revenues and then makes quarterly, tax advantaged distributions to investors. Payments made during the first seven years are deemed to be tax free.

Diagram explaining investment thesis

Click to view full size.

On Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 3:00 Eastern, Scott will join me here for a live discussion about the Clean Energy Advisors tax-advantaged model for investing in solar energy. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Scott Hill, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

Scott Hill, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

More about Clean Energy Advisors:

Twitter: @cleanenergyadv

Clean Energy Advisors (CEA) creates ownership opportunities for investors in utility scale solar energy projects that generate tax-advantaged predictable income, preserve capital, and have positive social and environmental impact.

Scott’s bio:

Twitter: @williamandhill

Scott Hill has over twenty years of entrepreneurial experience including a significant perspective on business start-ups and building successful small businesses. Mr. Hill has been with CEA since April 2014.

His duties include overseeing the firms family office, endowment, foundation, and UHNW client strategies. He has served as a panelist at US based family office conferences and enjoys speaking on impact investing, renewable energy opportunities, and the future of Solar PV worldwide.

Scott is a 1991 graduate of Columbia University and four year member of the football program. He lives near Nashville, TN with his wife and children. He’s also actively involved in his community and church.

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Your Travel Can Help Build Africa


You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Sana Butler, founder of Transformative Tourism, wants wealthy tourists to travel with her to Africa to drive positive impact. Her innovative model for tourism is intended to help protect UNESCO World Heritage sites that are underfunded, to protect the environment and to help low-income people and communities lift themselves out of poverty.

There is a fundamental flaw in the existing tourism model in Africa; most of the money that goes in flows out, she says.

Sana says, “The problem is that visitors spend about $40 billion a year in Sub-Saharan Africa; as much as 90% of it ‘leaks out’ to bank accounts of multi-national companies.”

This isn’t just a problem that slows economic growth-though it is that, too, she says. “As a result, significant local sustainable tourism development options like UNESCO World Heritage sites are left to deteriorate due to lack of investment funds; locals living in poverty in and around sites are left out of an opportunity to bring in as much as $100 million in annual visitor revenue. The base of the pyramid continues to suffer and grow in the region not because money doesn’t flow into host communities; everyday Africans remain poor because the money never stays.”

Sana’s model for Transformative Tourism is to cater to small numbers of high income travelers, providing them with luxury experiences, provided by local communities.

Sana says, “We will build very small, high-value ecotourism resorts as a sustainable tool to pay for the long road conservation of abandoned sites. We then swarm locals with what they need to manage and operate the sites, exclusively, creating infrastructure of economic retention. The preservation and revival of abandoned UNESCO World Heritage sites offer the greatest promise to disrupt tourism forces that produce and reproduce inequality in the region.”

Sana has identified four specific challenges that she faces in developing her new model. The challenges all relate to how she will convince all the key players from customers, to vendors and investors that her model works.

1. We think differently on how to approach impact. We believe the extreme poor should be connected to significant purchasing power – not to each other.

2. We aren’t in the big fvie: health, energy, technology, agriculture and education; so we are left out of a lot of conferences and debates on social impact.

3. We operate in the world of luxury. We have to convince people that those with significant purchasing power are more likely to make lasting change.

4. We have to walk a thin line between what people want to believe happens in the tourism industry in terms of sustainable development (a lot) and the reality (very little).

Sana is realistic. She recognizes that her approach doesn’t solve all of the world’s problems–or even to protect all of the at-risk UNESCO World Heritage sites. She identifies three specific limitations to her strategy.

1. Not every revived UNESCO World Heritage site will attract enough visitors to experience real earning potential.

2. The solution cannot be replicated in countries that do not have a UNESCO World Heritage site.

3. The government may not honor our contracts with indigenous communities and hand over a restored site to a multi-national firm to manage, which is how it is traditionally done in Africa.

Despite the challenges and limitations, she remains optimistic. “We are eradicating poverty and preserving the history of mankind. But more important, we are leveling the inequality in the world.”

Vince Molinari of our sponsor Eclat Impact, shares her enthusiasm. “I believe affluent travelers will be eager to participate in transformative tourism as it is catalyzing on many levels.  There will be many wealthy diaspora members who will be eager to explore their heritage while having an impact aspect of their travel.”

He notes, too, that cross-border travel improves international relations. “The data is clear that nations that have travel and tourism between them have low to no level of conflict.”

“Transformative Tourism can be the low hanging fruit that readily job creates, adds to GDP and moves the impact needle toward creating systemic change and opportunity for global youth,” he concludes.

On Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Sana will join me here for a live discussion about Transformative Tourism and your opportunity to travel with her to change the world. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Sana Butler, courtesy of Transformative Tourism

Sana Butler, courtesy of Transformative Tourism

More about Transformative Tourism

Transformative Tourism is a new conservation organization devoted exclusively to private sector solutions for protection and preservation of some of the world’s most significant yet abandoned UNESCO World Heritage sites in Africa; we purposively use low-volume, high-end tourism as a sustainable, long-road revenue tool to pay for the initiatives. Our profits swarm locals with what they need to manage and operate revived sites as well as competitive SME clusters around them (think art gallery, boutique hotel, coffee lounge). Everything about our work is designed so that by 2030 local businesses in or around World Heritage sites thrive out of poverty with paradigm links, not to each other, but to those with serious purchasing power.

Sana’s bio:

Before Transformative Tourism, Sana was a luxury travel writer for Newsweek UK. For more than a decade, she crisscrossed the globe advising millions on the world’s best 5-star hotels and spas. She is a frequent United Nations World Tourism Organization speaker and adviser, encouraging tourism ministers in developing countries to focus on infrastructure that drives economic retention and local sustainable development solutions for eradicating poverty. Sana participated in the inaugural Clinton Global Initiative Middle East & Africa in 2015 and is an Unreasonable Institute Lab Fellow, the same year. But her claim to fame was as a tv writer for the last season of Star Trek Enterprise. She has a BSBA from Georgetown University and a MS from Columbia University.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Shhh! Don’t Tell Starbucks The Future Is Coming On A Bicycle Wearing Blue Hair

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Maria De La Croix may one day prove to be the biggest mistake Starbucks SBUX -1.56% ever made. You see, the blue-haired young woman applied for a job as a barista with the global leader in high-end coffee shops and was turned down, she says, because her hair was “too blue.”

Lest anyone at Starbucks feel bad about the decision, no one could have guessed what would happen next. Suffice it to say, there is a mic drop coming.

With the help of some friends, De La Croix built a solar powered coffee shop on a bicycle and completely reinvented the coffee shop business. She calls her company Wheelys Cafe.

Her stores on wheels cost just $5,900, on which she makes a profit margin of 50 percent, she says. The shop is the key. By mass producing the bike-based shops, the company has reduced the production costs to about $3,000.

Wheelys 4 cafe on a bicycle, courtesy of Wheelys

Wheelys 4 cafe on a bicycle, courtesy of Wheelys

The company also developed an app De La Croix compares to the Uber app, allowing the shop owner to charge customers and order supplies. The company makes 5 percent on every transaction. She explains, “We are running a test version in Stockholm. A café with a $12,000 turnover generates $600 per month to Wheelys through a 5% charge on the app, and through supplying coffee. The important thing is that both the app and the supplies are cheaper than independent competitors. This means that even non-Wheelys cafés who join our integrated system would benefit.”

In addition, the company is launching a coffee subscription program as a third revenue stream. The Wheelys franchise owners will share in the profits on the subscriptions so the company won’t be competing with its distribution partners, she says.

De La Croix is on a mission. “Wheelys is empowering young global entrepreneurs,” she says. While Starbucks doesn’t sell franchises, she estimates that it costs about $800,000 to open a store. At $5,900 per store, a whole new group of entrepreneurs can now participate in the global economy in a meaningful way.

Not only is the business addressing a fundamental social justice issue by empowering people of limited means, the stores sell organic items and power themselves with the sun.

“We are aiming to break the hegemony of the industrial fast food chains, and pave the way for an organic revolution. Helping us to do this is young hungry eco entrepreneurs from all over the world,” she says.

While not yet profitable, Wheelys is off to the races; check out this growth reported by the company:

  • Wheelys has doubled in size every 6 months.
  • In 2014, the company was founded in Malmö, sells 20 cafés.
  • In 2015, Wheelys 2 is launched. The company Raises $100,000 on Indiegogo.
  • In May 2015, the company is accepted at Y Combinator.
  • In July 2015, Wheelys 3 is launched.  The company raises $250,000 on Indiegogo.
  • In November 2015, the company moves HQ office to Stockholm.
  • In December 2015, Wheelys has 150 cafés in 40+ countries.
  • In January 2016, the company opens office in Shanghai
  • In February 2016, Wheelys closes a seed round of $2.5 million.
  • In March 2016, Wheelys 4 launched on Indiegogo, raises $650,000.
  • In May 2016, the company reports having 500+ cafés in 60+ countries.
  • In June 2016, the company is selling 2 cafés a day.

Mic drop.

Maria De La Croix, courtesy of Wheelys

Maria De La Croix, courtesy of Wheelys

 

Aaron Harris, a partner with Y Combinator, says, “I met Maria and the rest of the Wheelys team when they applied for Y Combinator. I remember reading their application and thinking ‘This is a totally crazy and possibly incredible idea. I’ve got to meet this team.’”

He still feels the same way. “I think the business is amazing and hugely innovative. I lived in NYC for a long time, so the idea of a coffee cart isn’t that new. What’s novel is the way that the team has approached building a worldwide community of entrepreneurs bound up in a logistics network and incredible brand.”

Justin Waldron, fo-founder of Zynga, met De La Croix through Y Combinator and invested. He says, “I became interested when I heard their vision for lowering the cost of starting a highly profitable business for anyone who wants to be their own boss. What ultimately convinced me is that Maria and the rest of the team behind Wheely’s have a long history of creating movements and rallying a group of people behind a cause. Like the greatest companies, Wheely’s is both a business and a movement toward a better future.”

Being rejected by Starbucks created lasting motivation for De La Croix. In response to a question she gave an answer that cries out for a sarcastic, “Don’t hold back; tell me how you really feel.”

The problem today is that starting a café business (or ANY business) has become so expensive and complicated that the only really profitable cafés and shops today are global mega-brand behemoths that have descended upon our cities like a swarm of locusts.

In her own words, she shares the founding story for Wheelys:

Two years ago, I was turned down from a job at Starbucks for having to blue hair. I had no money for rent, so together with a few friends we built a café on wheels with our own hands. Instead of spending a lot on a storefront, we focused on making the freshest and best coffee, close to were the customers are. We wanted to avoid having a boss, spending hours at a desk or inside a dusty warehouse. But meeting friendly people, selling coffee in the sun. This was the beginning of Wheelys.

Wheelys gives shop owners flexibility and opportunity. Because the shops are on wheels, shop owners can move to different locations during the day, allowing them to be where the opportunities are best.

The menu sounds almost decadent–not what you would expect to buy off of a bicycle. It includes Turkish coffee, sweet tangerine juice, organic berries and raw chocolate.

By not buying real estate and eliminating the need for an electricity source by using solar power, the cost of a shop has been made affordable for millions of ordinary people.

The modern processes and global community of owners create a new sort of entrepreneurship. “Starting a business can be lonely and complicated. We don’t think it needs to be. [We make it easy by] removing complicated POS-systems, and paper work with our Über-like app for charging customers and keeping track of supplies. Wheelys is a community of 400+ entrepreneurs from all around the world, sharing ideas with each other every day.”

The new venture faces challenges–a lot of challenges, De La Croix admits. Shipping 200 kilogram crates with an entire cafe inside to more than 60 different countries around the world has been a big challenge, but one that has been overcome. She identifies opening a warehouse in China as another big one.

In addition, for a small business to deal with technical challenges on the other side of the planet creates unusual challenges for her. Another problem that seems likely to grow, especially after watching Uber’s experiences, is fighting with local politicians about street vending regulations.

De La Croix remains optimistic despite the problems, “The challenges have been many, and more will occur. I’m happy to have such a strong and helpful community of Wheelers around the world.”

She also sees some limitations to the business model. While $5,900 is a modest amount for entrepreneurs in the developed world, for many in the developing world it is still far out of reach.

Weather is also a challenge. She highlights the fact that it is “still difficult to be out selling for 8 hours in 45+ degree centigrade” heat. It would be similarly difficult when the weather is below freezing and, as in Sweden, sunlight is limited in the winter.

De La Croix has a vision for the change she hopes to bring. “We are not 100 percent perfect, not even 50 percent. We are a small company, and can’t force the world to produce ecological steel for our bikes. But, while the unemployment around the world increases, we empower young global entrepreneurs, giving people who did not have a job before a new chance, giving hungry entrepreneurs a helping hand to start their business.”

On Thursday, August 4, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, De La Croix will join me for a live discussion about Wheelys progress to date and her vision for the future. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

 

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