Button Up The Hatches: A Storm Is A-Brewin' Posted on May 05, 2017

Trump has put together the most anti-enviromental administration in history.  He just picked Daniel Simmons, a renewables critic, to head the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).  Now with Scott Pruit, a climate science denier and fossil fuel ally, in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Rick Perry in charge of the Department of Energy, which he once vowed to abolish, the cast of characters is complete.  

As we've known, and written about previously, across the nation, commentators, attorneys and anti-solar groups have been gathering to provide stories and accusations to paint the solar industry as a predatory group of companies victimizing homeowners and other solar customers with false claims of energy and cost savings, poor products and tactics of invading personal privacy. Things like the recent United States Securities and Exchange Commission probe into SunRun and SolarCity over customer contract cancellations is just one very public example of the impacts of these efforts. 

The solar industry has ridden out storms before, but we predict it has never seen a storm like the one that is approaching now. While solar might now be a $33 billion dollar industry, it is dwarfed by the $33 trillion dollars in lost revenue expected over the next 25 years for the fossil fuel industry due to climate change induced government regulations and other efforts to cut carbon emissions. Now is the time to turn to the advice of sailors on how ships survive a hurricane at sea.  

Although no crew wants to be found in the midst of a hurricane, when one is unavoidable the ship can survive by focusing on four things: 1) get the weather report, 2) ensure you have the weight of cargo to stabilize the ship, 3) know if any good ports are available, and 4) if all else fails, steer towards the area with the shallowest waves and lowest winds.  

Solar can learn a lot from this advice. Companies must stay informed, predict what is coming and know the weather forecast of their industry. A warehouse of inventory and dependable supplies can keep a company from a very wicked roll. The repeated impact of not having enough of the right supplies at the right price point can break a company apart. Just as not all ports offer the same kind of shelter, being caught in the wrong office lease can be dangerous. In such case, it might be better to go out to sea. And, companies will survive at sea if they keep a good distance from anything they might crash into and keep moving forward with enough power to steer.  

Winning a fight at sea is very similar to winning a fight in cleantech. It depends on having a well-maintained company, a trained and experience group of employees, and a bit of good luck.