If you’re a solar entrepreneur with a brilliant idea or product that will revolutionize the solar industry, or the wind industry…or any cleantech industry, here’s a tip: Buy, borrow, or steal Jigar Shah’s new book Creating Climate Wealth.
Shah is best known as the founder and former CEO of SunEdison and who later became the CEO of Carbon War Room. Though he’s retired from those duties, he remains an aggressive cleantech entrepreneur. Creating Climate Wealth is written as a blueprint for how solar entrepreneurs can partner with banks and government to achieve prosperity while achieving climate reduction goals.
Much of the insights in the book were learned from Shah’s experience growing SunEdison from a $113,000 home office start-up to a multimillion dollar company that was eventually purchased for $200+ million by MEMC Electronic Materials, which recently renamed itself SunEdison. Shah and SunEdison’s innovation was creating the solar PPA model that is standard in the solar industry today. But Creating Climate Wealth isn’t a self-congratulatory solar entrepreneur’s autobiography. Much of the book is dedicated to how solar entrepreneurs can manage and grow their companies. Shah goes over best practices for making connections, accessing mainstream capital, risk taking, hiring/firing, market timing, and much more.
There’s a reason that the first part of Creating Climate Wealth is written as a solar entrepreneur’s how-to book. Shah has plans and he needs the reader’s help. He boldly sets a global clean energy goal of 10 trillion dollars in solar projects through installing one million million-dollar solar projects in the 300-500-kW range. Having set that goal, Shah then explains the secret solar sauce for how to accomplish his goal with a “small is beautiful” philosophy.
For Shah, the trillion dollar goal is only scalable and possible with relatively small projects that don’t overwhelm governments or entrepreneurs with red tape and multiple mega-project complexity. Smaller projects allow for more flexibility and innovation — and more financiers who can bite off smaller smaller risks.
If there’s a fly in Shah’s plan, it’s his counting on local and national governments to embrace his goal and his suggestions for streamlining the installation process. Shah isn’t asking for taxpayer incentives, but instead he asks for government standards and regulations that will allow solar companies to plan and to be more innovative.
With so many state and utility fiefdoms and a dysfunctional Congress, this is the most challenging part of Shah’s bold blueprint. I would love it to happen, but our national democracy is in such a stalemate, and our local utilities are resistant to any change not mandated by public utility commissions. Nevertheless, the attempt to implement Shah’s plan should be made and the obstacles overcome one-by-one, state by state.
Beyond solar, Shah’s plan also includes entrepreneurial and regulatory climate solutions for other cleantech sectors. Mainly through regulatory changes, Shah offers moneysaving and carbon-saving suggestions for grid integration, building efficiencies, personal transportation, trucking, transoceanic shipping, industrial efficiency, and agriculture.
But Shah’s 10 trillion dollar cleantech investment plan depends on more than just government. It depends on us. In his final chapter, Shah writes: “To solve climate change and reach ten trillion dollars in investments by 2020, we have to increase the number of projects and dollars by about thirty five percent per year. At this scale, we need every successful stay-at-home parent, school board member, former city council official, commercial real estate broker, Realtor, Rotary Club member, and others in this field.” In short, it’s up to each of us to step up, get organized, and to do our part. I enjoyed Shah’s bold vision in Creating Climate Wealth. It’s an easy read and a great way…to UnThink Solar.
Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is a solar marketing and communications consultant and the author of Solar Fred's Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact him through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.
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