Business Case for Clean Energy

The following is a rough transcription of a brief message that the president of Nemeth Energy Solutions gave at the Business Case for Clean Energy, a networking event and panel discussion jointly hosted by Environmental Entrepreneurs and the Natural Resources Defense Council on October 12th in Cedar Rapids.

 

Good evening. I’m Mike Nemeth, I run Nemeth Energy Solutions, which is located near here in Fairfax. We’re a full-service commercial and residential solar engineering and installation company. We can bring coordinated services from finance, design, engineering, installation, and project management. I’m a licensed Professional Engineer so we can cover commercial & industrial as well as residential, and we can do all the engineering work locally & be on-site whenever needed. We’re a member of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, I’m an Ambassador with the organization & I’m the incoming Secretary on the Ambassador’s Executive Committee for next year. I’ve spent countless hours networking with business leaders, business people, and others in the Corridor, so what I say here comes from those discussions.

One of my favorite sayings is “If it doesn’t make financial sense, it doesn’t make sense.” And not so many years ago, solar electric did not make sense; it was expensive and unreliable. This has changed rapidly, and really just within the past decade. Now concerning solar, what used to take significant public assistance just to be barely viable can now see that same viability with no government incentives at all. So I’m grateful to be able to talk for a few minutes about the finances of solar electric energy.

Q: Why are more customers choosing to explore solar energy for their businesses, farms, or homes?

You could say Climate Change & Clean Energy.

Despite the title of this gathering, this is probably the concern that I hear … least of all. People do talk about it, but honestly I don’t hear this expressed much. Here’s what I hear more, and it tells me that people in general are becoming more knowledgeable about solar.

More knowledge inspires more questions:

  • Are there still tax credits?
  • I hear about solar in the news; what about that new place that just got solar?
  • Can I save money on my bills?
  • How much does this stuff cost?
  • How long does this stuff last?

People are starting to ask the right questions. And that cheers me; I’m glad to hear it. The next step is commitment; doing something about it. I hear fewer questions like:

  • Will it look awful?
  • Am I going to stand out like a nut if I put this stuff up?
  • Do I need batteries?
  • You mean those motorized things on poles?
  • Will my power company hate me?
  • Will Congress take away my credits?
  • Or my favorite: I’ll wait til the cost comes down –or better yet- I’ll wait til some big technology breakthrough comes out of the lab.

Folks, solar electric technology is mature. It’s affordable. After all, you don’t put off buying a cellphone because the price will be lower in 6 months – you see the benefit now & think it’s a good idea to get now. The situation is the same with solar. Going with it a year from now means that you’ll have missed out on a year’s production.

Consider electric rate increases. I think if I hear of a proposed rate increase, I’ll go to Des Moines & lobby FOR a rate increase! Why? My phone will start ringing. Now let’s think about that: WHY is that? Why would we get more calls if the electric rates go up? It’s because people have some understanding of the benefit of solar, & with rising electric bills they come face-to-face with the fact that they are RENTING their electricity … and their landlord just raised their rent. Yes, it’s a knee-jerk reaction, but consider: Why do people buy houses instead of renting them? They do that because they see an economic benefit. They avoid rising rents, they lock in a consistent long-term payment, maybe they’ll see an appreciation on their money, & they may even own the house outright someday. It’s the same story with solar.

Q: What is the financial (economic) impact of solar PV for commercial and residential customers?

Solar has four benefits:

  1. It protects you from rising utility rates
  2. It locks in a consistent long-term payment
  3. It is worth more every time the utility rates go up
  4. It may cost you nothing if you keep it long enough

Basically, the financial impact of solar electric all comes down to it being a moneymaker for the property owner. Usually. Not always; the property can’t always accommodate it. But if your property can accommodate solar – on the roof or on a shed or on racks on the ground – what’s the financial impact?

Especially for businesses, they get:

  • Predictable electric operating expenses – for that part of usage that is covered by solar. Or it allows the business to shift expenses from Operations to Capital Equipment. It’s a tool to use to help run a business.
  • Long-term ownership of business resources (as opposed to renting – consider: would you rent a facility without signing a lease? Utility power is like that.).
  • Notoriety. (Free press, people notice it, people talk about you. Word-of-mouth can be a powerful thing. Word-of-mouth can grow your business.)

In summary, if you’re:

  • A homeowner, solar is a good investment, just like your mortgage is a good investment.
  • A business, solar can give you an advantage in the market.

Thank you.

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