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 The mission of the "Your Mark on the World Center" is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.
Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Environment

Amidst ICO Flurry, This Social Entrepreneur Seeks $50M for Clean Energy In Developing World

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Everyone seems to want in on it. Even my septuagenarian neighbor who recently retired from her position as a clerk has taken up trading cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin jumped in value more than 50% in October alone. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being raised in new coin offerings every month. This surprising source of capital may be a natural match for social entrepreneurs.

Dan Bates, 60, the founder, president and CEO of ImpactPPA is now conducting presales in anticipation of a $50 million initial coin offering or ICO in the coming weeks. Bates has been doing clean energy projects in the developing world for a decade but ImpactPPA is a new business.

It will use not one but two cryptocurrencies. The first, a utility token, it calls NRG will be used to sell the electricity it produces on micro-grids and small utility-scale solar and wind projects. The second token, MPAQ, the one that will be offered in the ICO, will give the holders a voice in selecting the next projects. In part to avoid securities issues, MPAQ holders will not receive ownership or dividends.

Bates’s plan is to use the financing to fund projects that might otherwise have been financed by governments and big NGOs, including the World Bank. Those financing mechanisms are relatively slow.

Of the small villages and communities he works with, he says, “They don’t need to hire a lobbyist in Washington to try and get them a loan guarantee. They need power.”

Once the initial capital is deployed, Bates hopes that the sale of energy will provide adequate cash flow to fund more projects, allowing the company to snowball without the need to repay the initial $50 million.

That, of course, begs the question of why investors would put their money into the project if they won’t get ownership or dividends. The MPAQ token won’t be used in the sale of energy; that function will be accomplished with the NRG token. The “White Paper” just published by ImpactPPA is intended to answer the question.

A white paper plays the role of a prospectus in the wild west of initial coin offerings. As the name implies, a white paper has not been reviewed or approved by any regulatory body. Such a review would seem to violate the libertarian ethos of the crypto community.

Most of the white paper is devoted to the business plan.

Bates says the company has already lined up projects in Africa, Haiti and Latin America. In the developing world, reliable access to power can be life-changing.

Dan Bates, ImpactPPA

Bates shared an example from his work in Africa:

“My favorite project that we have is a guy who has the smallest unit that we make, a 750-watt device that runs a fan. That’s all it runs. But he lives in Nigeria and he had a chicken farm and his chickens were outdoors and they were being eaten by the wild animals. He moved them indoors but it’s so hot that they died of heat. So, now he takes one of these units and the fans blow air through it to keep the chickens cool. And, sure enough, he has a business now.”

Other projects he reports completing include a 150-kilowatt project in Haiti that serves a hospital and a school. “The project is completely expandable, so we will get to all 15,000 residents over time.” In Sudan, he’s looking at four 10 megawatt projects. Another 50-megawatt project may be on the table in Rwanda, he adds. “ImpactPPA has identified greater than 200 megawatts of projects and revenue opportunities in the near term.”

He adds that projects can be completed just 60 to 90 days after funding so the impact could be quick. It could also be significant. “Power begets education. Education, of course, begets a better way of life, better quality of life,” he says.

Today, about 1 billion people lack access to electricity. Billions more lack reliable access.

During the interview with Bates, which you can watch in the player at the top of the article, he shared his history with renewable energy:

When I started this project 10 years ago, it was designed to be U.S.-based; U.S. urban residential wind and solar is needed in the United States. But we pay 10 cents a kilowatt hour kilowatt hour average. And the lights always go on when you flip the switch

I met some guys in India. I traveled to India to see what the market would bear there and literally, Devin, in every meeting that I had on my first trip, the power would go off and the generator would kick back on a minute or two later and I thought to myself, I have a clean energy product. It’s scalable. It fits anywhere in the world. Why am I looking at the United States as my sole market? The globe is my market.

We started exploring opportunities in India. I was able to build a factory there to manufacture our products in Hyderabad. We’ve electrified over 150 or so off grid rural schools already. We’re selling the product to all sorts of people in the major cities as well as the rural areas.

Bates argues compellingly that “distributed energy will be the biggest driver for social change in the near future.”

Of course, to have the intended impact, customers need to be able to buy the power efficiently and affordably. Could the introduction of blockchain technology via the NRG token into the transaction prove to be a barrier?

Bates says the technology works now and is completely invisible to consumers. He argues that because people in the developing world are more accustomed to storing value on their phones and exchanging it for goods and services that they will painlessly adopt the new service. “They don’t need to know that it’s a blockchain device that’s running it.”

Vince Molinari, CEO of LiquidM Capital, LLC, (also a past client) who has spent decades on Wall Street and is now focused on cryptocurrencies, looked at the ImpactPPA website and provided some feedback.

First, he suggests some preliminary due diligence questions:

  • Is there expectation to speculate on the ICO itself as an alternative currency or an expectation of a rate of return from the underlying business or project?
  • The key to much of this is, is the token regulated and or approved in the jurisdiction of where it is being purchased and issued?
  • Is there alignment of the token holder and the issuer?
  • Are there investor protections for the token holders and fiduciary responsibility in place from the Issuer?

While it is beyond the scope of this article to answer those questions, they highlight some of the issues that those considering investments in ICOs should consider before investing.

Molinari, long an advocate for impact investing, says, “There is a massive opportunity for ICOs to be used to facilitate and aggregate capital to companies and projects globally which are doing levels of environmental, societal or cause-related good.” He points out that the crowdfunding approach that ICOs have been using may allow for issuers to connect effectively with affinity groups and diaspora communities that have a favorable predisposition to the offering.

Molinari is also a fan of the blockchain technology that underlies the ICO. “The ability to use smart contracts in the form of ICO is massively powerful and laudable. The ability to utilize the transparency of and immutable nature of blockchain to move capital to need, while reducing the ability for corruption and having the enabling outcome of disrupting and innovating energy generation and its associating financing is the epitome of democratization of access to capital and energy in one.”

Bates agrees. “I think the blockchain allows for this is be truly a disruptive technology if we do this right.”

Could ICOs provide a ready source of capital for more social enterprises? I can’t wait to find out.

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Check out my free webinar exposing the three myths that impair and two keys for crowdfunding success.


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!

For This Family, The Bigger The Problem, The Bigger The Opportunity

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN estimates that “roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted.”

Recognizing the journalistic injunction to avoid hyperbole, that truly is an enormous problem.

Justin Kamine, his brother Matthew and his father Hal determined that was just what they were looking for: an enormous opportunity. The Kamines have been developing infrastructure scale-projects since the senior Hal got into the cogeneration business in the mid-80s.

Justin Kamine joined me for a discussion about the company the family founded, KDC Ag, to tackle the problem.

The food waste problem also gives them an opportunity to address social and environmental problems they feel a desire to fix.

Food waste contributes to climate change as all the food that ends up in landfills required substantial energy to get there. Furthermore, the soil we use to grow crops is being consistently depleted; chemical fertilizers fail to restore all of the nutrients lost.

Justin Kamine, KDC Ag

Those chemical fertilizers, Kamine says, are overused. The first 50% of the nitrogen added does 80% of the good; the second 50% largely is lost to runoff, resulting in huge dead zones, especially in areas where runoff is concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Matthew Weatherley-White, Managing Director at CAPROCK, asked for comment, said, “Petroleum-based fertilizers mean, as Michael Pollan is fond of saying, that we are all eating oil.”

KDC Ag’s board of directors is comprised of luminaries, including former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman and philanthropist Howard Buffett.

Kamine cites Buffett as suggesting that conventional farmers need to be “much more environmentally sensitive and progressive.”

Six years ago, the Kamines invested in California Safe Soil, which has been working with the University of California at Davis to develop a process for converting waste food into fertilizer and animal feed. With that technology now commercialized, the Kamines formed KDC Ag to bring the technology to infrastructure scale with a goal of eliminating food waste over the next five years.

The new process mimics human digestion; they sometimes refer to it as compost 2.0. Waste food can be converted to fertilizer or animal food in three hours and is available for use the next day.

The KDC Ag process starts with virtually any supermarket waste food, including fruits and vegetables, meats and baked goods. The food pellets that result taste “like raisin bran,” according to Kamine. The pellets are fed to chicken and pigs. The Food and Drug Administration prohibits feeding the products to cows.

The liquid fertilizer can be added to a farmer’s drip irrigation system providing for precision agriculture that returns a broad range of nutrition to the soil. Food contains relatively little nitrogen so conventional farmers have KDC Ag add nitrogen to the liquid fertilizer. Organic farmers use it as it comes out of the system.

Craig Wichner, Managing Partner of Farmland LP, which invests in conventional farms and converts them to organic production, notes, “Using supermarket food waste to create fertilizer is completely philosophically aligned with organic production. They are taking a known good product (food at supermarkets), and closing the loop on the waste, converting it quickly and efficiently back into food for plants.”

The production process is sufficiently benign to be conducted in urban areas near the supermarkets supplying the food, allowing for an efficient backhaul distribution model employing trucks that deliver food to the stores to return to the farms carrying feed and/or fertilizer.

Because post-consumer food typically contains too much salt for a healthy soil amendment, those food wastes are not good candidates for the KDC Ag process.

Kamine was recently invited to participate in a clean tech competition hosted by the Prince of Monaco. Against 30 invited competitors, KDC Ag won the Clean Tech Equity Award.

What initially appealed to the Kamines, who report having $3.5 billion of infrastructure in their other businesses, is the scale of the opportunity. They hope to be operating in all 50 states within five years.

They earn approximately the same margin on both the feed and the fertilizer, allowing them to adjust according to demand without an impact on the bottom line. The margins are good enough, according to Kamine, to allow the company to invest quickly to scale up the business.

The KDC Ag process will reduce chemical fertilizer use, reduce carbon emissions, increase crop yields 10 to 40% and reduce water consumption all while reducing food waste at a potentially massive scale.

Weatherley-White’s reaction:

As an impact investor, I’m intrigued. Clear benefits to healthy soils. Equally clear benefits to landfill management and organic waste therein (including landfill-released GHG reduction). Using organic, composted fertilizer on crops is a fantastic benign-by-design chemical replacement. And the potential for scale is certainly compelling: the combination of food waste reduction and ag chemical substitution could be a massive opportunity.

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Learn more about my courses on entrepreneurship, crowdfunding and corporate social responsibility here.


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!

New Player In Living Walls Brings Outside Inside

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Sagegreenlife is bringing living walls to a growing market with new technologies that allow people to bring the outside inside.

The company builds its living, green plant walls on a patented hydroponic system without any soil. The “Biotile” stone was developed by UK-based Biotecture, Ltd.

Sagegreenlife’s founder, Richard Kincaid, 55, explains that LED plant lights provide an enabling technology by allowing plants to grow without direct sunlight.

Kincaid estimates the 2015 market for living walls at about $100 million. He hopes to see Sagegreenlife achieve revenue of $3 to $5 million for 2017. The business generates gross margins of about 60% but is not yet profitable.

The Luxottica living wall by Sagegreenlife

Watch my full interview with Kincaid in the video player at the top of the article.

Coming from a long career with Sam Zell at Equity Office Properties where he ultimately served as CEO and led the $39 billion (including debt) sale of the business, he began learning about the business of sustainable real estate, focusing on creating LEED-certified projects.

Kincaid is optimistic about the growth of a global market for green walls driven by the real benefits of the walls. “We help create more productive, healthier environments by making it easy to place living walls everywhere.”

In addition to LEED credits, he notes that companies get wellness credits for living walls. He explains that the walls absorb sound while purifying the air and increasing natural humidity.

Sheryl Schulze, senior project director at Gensler, a global design firm that sells Sagegreenlife walls, notes, “For years, the design industry has tried to solve for the successful engagement of diverse plant life in interiors. For people who experience living walls – and, the design teams creating environments to support the expectations – Sagegreenlife has made the entire process easier to implement.”

The Verdanta living wall by Sagegreenlife

The walls can be designed to display advertising as well. Schulze explains, “Brand messaging is key to successful organizations. Gensler understands that organizations attract and retain talent by the strength of their brand. When clients engage us, our mission is to build that message in the spaces we deliver. Sensory experience plays a large role in building that culture within organizations. The integration of live plants aid in that sensory storytelling.”

The collaboration between Sagegreenlife and Gensler has led to a new, smaller, portable wall that completely changes what a cubicle is. “Verdanta, the Next-Gen green wall, allows for the ability to easily reconfigure space to support various work modes while offering visual and acoustic privacy.”

Aaron Moulton, vice president of creative design for Treehouse, a sustainable home improvement company, found Sagegreenlife while conducting a search for sustainable products.

Moulton says his goal is to make spaces naturally more beautiful and healthier. “Humans need the psychological and physical health benefits of being near plant life and Sagegreenlife creates products that bring this ‘greenergy’ into homes and into commercial spaces to make them more productive and more importantly, happier!”

Moulton has what he calls a “technology positive” view of the world. He believes we can make a more sustainable world by using technologies, especially solar and batteries rather than by depriving ourselves of showers or electricity.

“We were in the design process for designing our flagship energy positive (produces more energy than it consumes) store and wanted a striking green wall that would both draw the eye, surround the doorway to our outdoor sales area and also be in line with our mission through the air scrubbing qualities of having plants in the space,” Moulton says.

By employing the Biotile technology, Moulton and Schulze agree that Kincaid and Sagegreenlife will capitalize on a global trend toward sustainability by helping people and companies bring the outside inside.

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Learn more about my courses on entrepreneurship, crowdfunding and corporate social responsibility here.


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!

Breaking the Bad From My Pilgrimage to the Home of Walter White

 

This article was originally written for GoodCrowd.info.

Last weekend, Gail and I visited Albuquerque, New Mexico on a quest to visit shooting locations for the show Breaking Bad. We drove from our home in Salt Lake City and then all around the city. We also visited Farmington and Santa Fe. We had a great time despite putting 1,800 miles on our rented Ford Focus in four days. I was feeling rather guilty about the environmental impact of such a trip so I found a way to offset my carbon impact.

Gail and I sold our car almost three years ago. I wrote about our decision for Forbes. It is one of the most popular articles I’ve written and by far the most well remembered. People still frequently comment on our decision to sell our BMW SUV. One of our motivations for selling it was to be more environmentally friendly. So this long road trip with virtually no socially redeeming value left me feeling a bit guilty.

The home of fictional Breaking Bad character Walter White

The home of fictional Breaking Bad character Walter White

Recently, I wrote a Forbes piece about Cool Effect, a crowdfunding site that sells carbon credits. I figured it was about time I put what I learned into practice.

First, I had to determine how much carbon my trip produced. There are lots of calculators out there so I picked the first one that tickled my fancy with a quick Google search. With less than one minute of data entry, the calculator estimated that my trip produced 0.46 metric tonnes of carbon. Frankly, I was relieved that it was so little. There were times I thought I could feel sea-level rising as I passed slow-moving trucks going uphill.

Next, I visited CoolEffect.org where I was presented with about a dozen projects that all provide carbon offsets. Today, the prices offered for carbon offsets ranged from $6.04 per tonne to $13.18. Each project does something different to reduce carbon.

The cheapest carbon offset project is called “What’s Cooking?” It provides fuel efficient cookstoves in Uganda, reducing the carbon emissions from cooking there.  The ancillary benefits of this program include saving money for low-income households as they buy and burn less fuel, mostly charcoal. It also reduces deforestation there–charcoal is produced by partially burning wood. Perhaps most importantly, the project improves the health of women and children who spend time around cooking fires.

The most expensive project is called “Putting Methane in Its Place.” The project is located on the Southern Ute Indian reservation in La Plata County, Colorado. There, natural coal seams exposed to the atmosphere by erosion are leaking methane. The Tribe developed a way to capture and use the methane, preventing it from leaking into the atmosphere and allowing Tribe members to use the methane rather than purchasing propane or natural gas that had been drilled. The project also creates jobs for Tribe members.

For my carbon offset–I went all kinds of crazy and bought one entire tonne of carbon offset despite having generated only 0.46 tonnes–I chose “Wind Power to the People.” This project in Costa Rica provides wind power to 50,000 people in 10,000 households in rural Costa Rica. It also provides income to co-op owners in impoverished areas.

All of the projects have been triple checked and verified to assure investors that the carbon offsets they buy are real.  A typical American will generate between 16 and 20 tonnes of carbon per year. A household of four might produce 80 tonnes. Offsetting 100 percent of that carbon production would cost as little as $483.20 or just about $40 per month. While not universally true, there is a positive correlation with income and carbon production. Bigger homes produce more carbon. More cars driven more miles produce more carbon. Taking public transit dramatically reduces your carbon footprint. So does eating less meat! The bottom line is that for most households, offsetting their carbon production is now as cheap as it is easy. Try breaking your bad at CoolEffect.

Wringing Costs From Solar Is Goal For This Berkeley PhD

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

Jason Trager is more than a throwback to the sixties or a cliche. He may have earned a PhD at Berkeley with a focus on improving the energy efficiency in buildings by applying statistical process controls, but he’s also a hard core entrepreneur who relishes profit–so long as it doesn’t adversely impact others.

He calls himself and his firm “Sustainabilist.” He says that unlike a capitalist who hordes profits and socializes externalities like pollution and carbon, a Sustainabilist hordes profits without socializing externalities. He says, “Our quest is carbon reduction. Every dollar that we make can be linked to some amount of carbon that does not make it into the atmosphere.”

Sustainabilist, the firm, is working on a number of projects, but one key area of focus is on applying statistical process controls to the process of solar installation. By doing so, he hopes to not only improve the quality of solar installations but also to reduce costs, thereby accelerating adoption.

Jason explains, “The same statistics and operational frameworks that are used to mass-produce cars, pens, beer, and soda cans can be used to detect and minimize problems with solar installations and building operations.”

He notes that the soft costs of solar installations are especially challenging. “Through our methodology, we have been able to use data to pick out issues with contractor installation techniques. If we can improve the process of the installation of solar, we can potentially eliminate an estimated $181 million in expense that it costs contractors to go back to sites in order to fix problems,” he concludes.

Sustainabilist is also working on a platform called RosettaBlock that employs open-source standards to close the feedback loop between contractors, building owners and operators and the solar manufacturers. He hopes this feedback loop can help further reduce the cost of solar.

With his focus on the environment and sustainability, Jason lives up to the Berkeley reputation. His entrepreneurial drive may allow him to accelerate solar adoption to the benefit of everyone on the planet.

Jason Trager, courtesy of Sustainabilist

Jason Trager, courtesy of Sustainabilist

More about Sustainabilist:

Twitter: @sustainabilist

We provide contracting and consulting services to sustainable businesses and companies that wish to be more sustainable. Our specialities are: quality for solar and energy efficiency control through data science, marketing and communications for sustainable enterprises, and corporate social responsibility for the enterprise. We are also producing SaaS products for social good, such as RosettaBlock and the PlusFarm urban farming controller that we are producing in collaboration with Blue Planet Consulting and CommonGarden.

Jason’s bio:

Dr. Trager is an engineer and sustainability professional with experience in utilizing data to drive profitable results while simultaneously reducing the carbon footprint of businesses. Through his company, Sustainabilist, he demonstrates his passion for building technically sound businesses that reduce the rate of anthropogenic climate change. He earned a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, where he studied the application of statistical process control (SPC) and other mass production methodologies for energy efficiency in buildings. His program also included a designated emphasis in energy science and technology in addition to a certificate in Engineering and Business for Sustainability. He has since focused on applying SPC frameworks to improve the quality of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects with groups such as the Institute for Building Safety and Technology (IBTS), and kW Engineering.

Jason is the founder of Sustainabilist, a personalized political philosophy which guides the company. He believes that being a Sustainabilist is like being a capitalist, but that you are not obligated to maximise profit at expense of all else. Instead, the obligation is to internalize and minimize the negative externalities created by your business. It is acceptable to maximise profit as a Sustainabilist, but the previously given constraint must be satisfied at all times.

Jason’s areas of experience include business development, energy data science, product life cycle assessment, scientific coding, fundraising, team management, and bicycle repair. He is a serial entrepreneur who has been a key founder in three companies. Jason values teamwork and diversity on projects. He is committed to living by sustainable values and is always willing to have a discussion about how to improve the world.

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!

 

Expert: Now is the Time to Get Solar on Your Business

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



Erik Melang, 52, the CEO and co-founder of Distributive Solar, says now is the time for business owners to put solar panels on their facilities. He should know; in under one year since he launched the business, his team has 75 megawatts of solar projects in the pipeline.
Erik recently made the case for investing in solar now in a post on Linkedin and joined me for a quick conversation (watch it at the top of this article) to talk about the reasons.
He offers four primary reasons for considering solar now:

  1. The investment tax credit on solar installations will begin to expire in 2020. Given the time required to evaluate, design and install solar, there isn’t much cushion in the calendar to take advantage of the tax benefits.
  2. Even before the solar investment tax credit begins to expire, the accelerated depreciation provisions of the tax code will begin to be phased out. In 2018, the first year depreciation on new equipment will drop from 50 percent to 40 percent.
  3. Interest rates continue to be low, allowing a business with good credit to finance most if not all of the cost using ten-year financing that will allow the business to save more in electricity than it pays in total financing costs each year, thus providing instant positive cash flow and leaving the business with a free source of electricity after only ten years.
  4. The pre-tax cost of solar is lower today than many in the industry thought possible by 2017. Commercial-scale projects can be completed under $1.70 per watt installed before any tax considerations.

There are lots of solar calculators that can help you get a more exact number, but according to one, the average number of KWH produced by each watt of installed solar is 1.44 per year. If you pay, say, $0.20 per KWH to your utility, you avoid $0.288 per installed watt per year. In this hypothetical example, you would achieve savings of 16.9 percent.

Of course, every situation is different. The further south your business sits, the more sun you tend to get. Utility rates vary, having a lot to do with your community’s proximity to coal.

Erik says utility rates are likely to rise more or less with inflation as the cost of coal, oil and gas production will tend to rise with inflation. This suggests that your future savings could be even greater than your current savings.

Because the sun is likely to shine consistently year after year and the panels are guaranteed for 25 years, according to Erik, the risks are low. With double-digit returns possible–even before tax considerations–and when those returns are highly probable, it makes sense to give serious consideration to these opportunities.

Given that many utilities are making net metering difficult if not impossible, Erik recommends installing only enough solar panels to provide for your peak daytime load (or less) so that you never have to sell power back to the utility. This approach is called staying “behind the meter.” Like conservation tactics like LED light bulbs, you reduce your power bill and keep all of the savings. No need, he says, to get mired in the bureaucracy of selling power back to the utility.

Scott Hill, President of Clean Energy Advisors, a Your Mark on the World Center sponsors and investor in Distributive Solar, says, “The cost of solar is coming down to the point where it makes sense for businesses to consider taking some control over their energy needs. Plus, more and more customers are demanding the businesses they purchase products and services from are being responsible about their carbon footprint.”

One day soon, he notes, power storage technology will allow businesses to produce all of their own power reliably and affordably, but that day hasn’t arrived, yet.
Today, he says, is the day to put solar power to work for your business to reduce but not fully eliminate your power bill.

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!

CEA Targets $800M of Solar Investment With New Partners

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


Clean Energy Advisors announced a major new financing that will take the firm from having invested about $140 million in solar energy projects to about $800 million. CEA President Scott Hill also notes that building on this success, the firm will establish a foundation to fund more charitable initiatives. (Watch or listen to my discussion with Scott using the players above.)Scott explains that the unnamed financing partners, two “multinational families,” have committed about $350 million. Combined with additional debt financing, the firm anticipates reaching $800 million in financed projects, “completing the pipeline of projects in North Carolina.” He anticipates that deploying the capital will take 18 to 24 months.

Scott explains that the unnamed financing partners, two “multinational families,” have committed about $350 million. Combined with additional debt financing, the firm anticipates reaching $800 million in financed projects, “completing the pipeline of projects in North Carolina.” He anticipates that deploying the capital will take 18 to 24 months.

He notes that the cost of installation for small utility scale projects is about $1.50 or $1.60 per watt, yielding a cost of about $1.5 million per megawatt. The new financing should allow CEA to install another 400 MW in North Carolina. He also notes that the scale they are achieving should allow the firm to look beyond their traditional structure where Duke Energy is the primary “off-taker” or buyer of the energy from the projects financed.

The new scale also creates an opportunity for CEO to increase its philanthropic efforts. Scott says the firm has started the process of creating a foundation that will fund charitable work. Last year, the firm backed nonprofits Reverb and Headcount to build support for environmental causes at 25 concerts across the country. Scott says they’ll be doing that again. “People who attend concerts have a natural affinity for nonprofits.”

Scott also hopes that the firm can use the foundation to fund solar projects in the developing world like putting solar panels on schools that don’t have access to the grid. He says the firm will donate its time to manage projects that the foundation funds and hopes donors will help them make a big impact.

The acceleration of the solar industry is creating a bright future for the world, both in the developing world and here in the developed world.

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.

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!

‘Amazing’ Opportunity: Electrifying the Developing World With Solar

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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.

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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!

 

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.

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!

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!
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