How Collaboration and Resilience Will Help the Solar Industry Weather Current and Future Challenges and Lead by Example
This wasn’t the article I planned to write as we prepare for the solar construction season here in the Northeast. And I certainly didn’t anticipate writing it from my kitchen table in quarantine. But here we are.
In just a few weeks, the U.S. economy has been transformed. We have lost over a decade worth of job creation, the stock market is on a downward spiral, and we find ourselves scrambling to get critical work done from the safety of our homes amid dirty dishes and restless children. The news of the loss of nearly 50,000 American souls (and counting) and the more than 26 million American workers filing for unemployment due to the coronavirus is rightfully top of mind across the country and beyond.
During what is clearly a time of heightened anxiety for all of us, I find myself reflecting on how strategic partnerships we have developed across both our immediate network as well as the broader Certified B Corporation community are providing small businesses like ours at Encore Renewable Energy with the support and resources we need to fuel the pending economic recovery that I know is in our collective future.
Navigating the New Normal
Like many small business owners, we have spent countless hours in the last six weeks working to stabilize the liquidity of our business with a multitude of resources at our disposal. I know that we are not alone. Many nonprofits, schools, governing bodies, and places of worship are navigating available opportunities for assistance to and between those organizations and the community at large. In the interim, I thought I’d share some lessons that I’ve learned on the value of trusted partnerships, and how these relationships foster resilience during times of economic uncertainty.
In the best of economic times, collaboration and financial stability are critical factors for the success of any small business.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, we are now forced to further leverage this power of interconnectedness with others. For the past 10 years we at Encore have developed and nurtured relationships with banks, investors, professional organizations, and subcontractors with whom we share a mutually beneficial desired outcome of being able to respond effectively and efficiently to the ups and downs of typical business cycles. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown new light on the importance of these relationships as we navigate these uncertain times.
For example, to soften the negative effects of recent shelter-in-place orders, our investor partners at the Vermont Flexible Capital Fund proactively offered a moratorium on corporate royalty fund payments until July. Our local lender, Northfield Savings Bank, is providing us with temporary relief from debt service payments for the company as well as for a number of project-level subsidiaries. Project capital partners are working with us to accelerate payments on time-sensitive projects to keep things moving forward. Finally, we are in constant communication with the various professionals and subcontractors with whom we work, sharing information on COVID-19 relief strategies and best practices for safe working environments with the goal of being able to continue work together in the fight against the other epic challenge currently facing humanity: climate change.
But This Is Not Really All That New
As a company in the solar industry, our regular work is also a good example of the power of collaboration and resilience. Before the global pandemic, we had to successfully navigate numerous headwinds including tariffs, yo-yo regulatory policies around clean energy, and federal policies designed to tilt the playing field further in the direction of the waning coal and oil and gas industries.
In part a result of this resilience, we believe that our industry is poised to weather the current COVID-19 pandemic and be well-positioned to safely lead economic relief efforts. Our confidence also stems from a number of critical factors including accelerating research and development activities, escalating capital deployment (prior to the outbreak), and pricing improvements due to the global scaling up of the industry that make solar and wind, especially when paired with energy storage, some of the cheapest sources of electricity in many parts of the world.
While anchored in the reality that these are incredibly challenging times, I am highly optimistic that our industry will be able to ride out this latest economic challenge and exit the crisis stronger than we were when we entered it.
Further, I am convinced that we have some of the smartest, most passionate, and highly nimble professionals working in clean energy, which will allow us to position ourselves as an industry that can safely help lead our communities beyond the economic disaster and toward recovery. So let’s roll up our sleeves, get to work, continue to support, partner and collaborate with each other, and position ourselves to come out of this crisis in better shape as a result of having had to endure it!
Chad Farrell is founder and CEO of Encore Renewable Energy, a Certified B Corporation. B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.
The Power of Partnerships in Driving Economic Recovery from COVID-19 was originally published in B The Change on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.