With the recent announcement of the tariff on imported solar cells and modules, solar energy has been in the news a lot lately. But what does it really mean and how will it impact you and your projects?
Thankfully, you will barely notice the impact of this tariff on the kinds of projects we do with you. As incredible forward-thinking clients, you know that solar decreases owner-paid utility costs, increases property value, produces clean greenhouse gas-free energy on site, and can add resiliency to the property when paired with storage.
Here are some specific reasons why we’re not too worried about the tariff:
- Solar panels are only one component of a solar project. Even if the full effect of the tariff gets incorporated into our pricing, it would not substantially impact the system’s long-term economic and environmental benefits. The 30% tariff is only on the solar modules and cells, so it would not increase the total price of a project by anything close to 30%!
- A number of manufacturers are petitioning for exclusion from the tariff, including our primary panel supplier, SunPower. Given that SunPower truly does have a unique cell and module design that is higher efficiency than any other (and which already sells at a premium price), they have a good case for exemption. This article from Greentech Media explains why.
- Imported solar panel manufacturers may eat some of the cost of the tariff. We’ve already spoken to manufacturers who have agreed to do so.
How Will This Tariff Impact You?
If you already have solar panels on your building, this will have no impact.
If we are currently installing panels on your building and the panels have already been ordered, your Bright Power account manager will be reaching out to discuss the specific plan for your project.
If we are under contract to install a solar project for you this year, and we haven’t yet ordered the panels, your Bright Power account manager will reach out to share all your options, including potentially expediting the process.
If we aren’t yet in contract, we will not be able to order the panels before February 7, 2018, the date the tariff goes into effect. We still don’t know the true extent of the impact of this tariff and expect to learn more over the next month. We do know that the 30% tariff does not mean a 30% higher cost for your project. At worst, the tariff will end up causing a small price increase that we will do everything we can to minimize.
How We See It
From where we are sitting, this tariff will not aid in the immediate increase in U.S. based manufacturing as it intends. Unfortunately, the media attention is already causing confusion and will slow down the growth of the industry and proliferation of solar. That being said, we fully support the creation of American manufacturing jobs. Prior to their bankruptcy, we used SolarWorld, one of the petitioners in the original trade case, panels. We look forward to the creation of American-made solar cells and modules and will look for ways to include those products when scoping for projects.
Tony Clifford, chief development officer at Standard Solar, may have said it best: “The solar industry is nothing if not resilient, and I’m confident the innovative, tough and resourceful members of the industry will find workarounds to the latest obstacle placed in solar’s path. The Solar Century is here, and not even unfair tariffs will stand in its way.”
Beyond Saving Energy + Water: Other Ways My Colleagues Better Our World
Bright Power’s mission is to “improve the comfort, health, and productivity of buildings and their occupants while eliminating their negative impacts on the planet.” It’s a mission that we take seriously and one that draws a lot of smart people who are trying to do right by the planet. But many Bright Ones (our affectionate pet name) not only bring value to our clients and their building portfolios, but also regularly do extra to make the world better.
Since I’m proud of Bright Power and the individuals that comprise our company, indulge me while I brag about my special coworkers.
Karl Haviland, a Senior Software Developer at Bright Power, is involved in Soccer for Charities, an organization started by Karl’s friend Zach Puga to raise awareness and funds for lesser-known nonprofit organizations through the love of soccer. Karl has helped organize and run the event for the past three years. In 2016, Soccer for Charities raised enough money to support two elementary school teachers in Cameroon and provide the class with uniforms through the Benekin Foundation. In past years, Soccer for Charities raised several thousand dollars for Crohn’s Disease and Colitis as well as the Hydrocephalus Association. Bright Power entered a team each of the past three years. In 2016, roughly twenty different Bright Ones participated together with friends and relatives.
In December 2016, Bright Power’s Energy Analysis Team organized the New York office’s participation in the New York Cares’ coat drive for the third year. In total, Bright Power employees donated thirty-eight coats this season.
In February 2017, Bright Power participated in the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)’s project to estimate the amount and types of food wasted in New York City. As the NRDC’s research proposal explained, “Assessing the amount of food that is wasted – and could potentially have been eaten – along with identifying some of the root causes of why food is wasted is a critical step in helping identify strategies to reduce food waste.” Bright Power participated in this food waste audit to promote research into this sustainability-minded pursuit.
Unrelated to the NRDC study, Bright Power began composting appropriate food waste in 2016. Our New York office currently has four compost bins. Crystal Sun and Stephen Walsh, two members of our Energy Analysis team, deliver roughly 20-30 lbs of our compost per week to GrowNYC’s Food Scrap Composting program via the Bowling Green Tuesday Greenmarket.
In Summer 2016, Bright Power received notice from the NY Department of Sanitation that the recycling laws for businesses were changing. While we always had recycling bins prior, the laws drew our attention to the need to be more diligent. As a sustainability company, we were eager to comply. Once we started paying more attention to our recycling process, however, we noticed that the building maintenance staff would combine our recyclables into their general trash. Mike Battle, Bright Power’s Office Coordinator, tirelessly coordinated efforts between building staff and management to comply with the new laws. Unfortunately, no change resulted. Taking matters into his own hands, Mike researched recycling vendors. This led Bright Power to contract an environmentally-friendly office cleaning company, Managed by Q, which partners with a separate recycling company to pick up all of Bright Power’s recyclables twice a week.
There’s no doubt the reason Bright Power is a special company is its leadership. Jeff Perlman is a unique and visionary President. When Trump’s travel ban was signed, Jeff published his public reaction here. He also sent an email to our entire company that moved me to tears and made me very proud to work at Bright Power. To show you the personal and caring way Bright Power’s leadership approached the issue to us as individuals, I’ve included just the end of Jeff’s email here:
“Please know that I am going to do everything I can to provide all of you with a safe place to work, and have instructed the Ops team to do so as well. If anyone wants to talk to me or Katie about this, our doors are open. Our immigration attorneys are also available to connect with if/when you need. Another resource available to you is the free Confidential Employee Assistance Program which may be of help during this uneasy time.
And please support each other and your friends, families and neighbors. If you want to use the office for any meetings to help fight this, you are welcome to do so. We are stronger together.”
Separate from Bright Power functioning as a for-profit business, we are committed to being an industry partner within the building sustainability space. As such, we have supported Enterprise Community Partners and the National Center for Healthy Homes (NCHH) in a long-term health study on the impacts of green buildings. Bright Power has also contributed to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s efforts by providing resident engagement data and analysis. Additionally, we made our Local Law 87 (LL87) cleaning code open source to help align research efforts within the industry and make the data easier to understand and compare. Sarah Newman, a Bright Power Research Analyst, recently published a blog to share her stimulating analysis of the Local Law 84 (LL84) public data available.
I’m honored to be part of a team so fully committed to reducing our clients’ energy use, water consumption, and utility costs. But it warms my heart all that much more to do so every day surrounded by some of the best folks I know. I’m looking forward to witnessing and participating in all the good doing to come.
I was planning to write an uplifting piece about the “irreversible momentum of clean energy,” following on what President Obama wrote, just before leaving office, in Science Magazine.
If you want to read that piece, click here.
But given the recent events surrounding the President’s executive order on immigration, I feel compelled to write to you about something else: standing up for what is right.
At Bright Power, we have employees who were born in over a dozen countries. My employees have been coming to me – as I imagine your employees, colleagues, tenants and friends may be coming to you – scared and unsure of the security of their place in this country.
The US has long been a place that the brightest and best from around the globe seek to come, and our companies and communities are the beneficiaries of this global braintrust. This is one of the core strengths of our economy. But how can the foreign nationals in any workplace or apartment complex in America be productive if they are forced to worry if they are the next target? How can companies continue to recruit global talent if they cannot guarantee for prospective employees a safe place here?
As leaders of organizations and in our communities, we must stand up to protect those with less power and less privilege, within our organizations, communities, and beyond. We cannot simply look at this month or this quarter and, if the numbers look good, ignore what is happening in the world around us. This is about what is good for the long-term health of our businesses, but this is also about what is right.
This country – the richest in the world – has been a place of refuge for so many — in my family and probably in yours, too. People who didn’t have the privilege of education or wealth, who were chased from their homes or lucky to escape with their lives, coming here with nothing but the desire to prove they could be a productive part of this open and welcoming society; a place where we judge not by who you are or where you came from, but by what you can do.
Political decisions made haphazardly about immigration, taxation, trade agreements and use of military, to name a few, have dire consequences not just on our ability to conduct business, but on our position in the world and on the lives of people in this country and across the globe.
So I stand with other business leaders, from Google to Goldman Sachs, from Ford to GE, against ugly isolationism and xenophobia, and for the loving, inclusive, and welcoming country that has been a beacon of hope and light to my ancestors, to current immigrants and to so many around the world. And I invite you to stand with me.
President and CEO
Just before leaving office, President Obama wrote in Science magazine, about the “irreversible momentum of clean energy.” Just look at the employment trends: “~2.2 million Americans… currently employed in the design, installation, and manufacture of energy-efficiency products and services… [compared] with the roughly 1.1 million Americans who are employed in the production of fossil fuels and their use for electric power generation.” We’ve seen evidence of this ourselves at Bright Power, where our staff has more than doubled in size since the last election and in 2016 alone our revenue grew over 70% — not a lot of conventional energy companies can say that. Insofar as the 2016 election was a referendum on jobs, President Trump should want to support the largest areas of employment in the energy sector (hint: they’re not coal mines). And equipment costs for renewables and energy efficiency, especially for solar energy and LED lighting, have been on a steady downward trajectory, which means that they are increasingly less dependent upon government subsidy.
All of this is good news for the real estate industry. We have a growing set of tools we can use to deliver more value to you, across your portfolio. Finding opportunities to lower energy usage and costs, fixing buildings to make them more comfortable and more efficient, and following them on an ongoing basis to reduce headaches for you and your maintenance staffs…all of this continues to work for you, no matter who is in office.
While the Clean Power Plan (CPP) itself now seems doomed, the electricity sector has already nearly achieved the 2030 carbon goal today (we’re at 27% carbon savings and the 2030 goal is 32%). So as long as we don’t start forbidding the use of renewables in favor of coal (really, Wyoming?), we should far surpass the CPP goals even without the CPP. And while the recent executive orders in support of oil pipelines mean that they will likely get built at some point in the future, it is a small enough amount of oil and far enough in the future that it’s not likely to have a major impact on prices.
Plus, energy policy has always been made primarily at the state level anyway. Rather than anything resembling unity across the states, support for renewable energy and energy efficiency is likely to become even more of a patchwork with even deeper contrasts – defined state-by-state, municipality-by-municipality. It is more than a full-time job keeping up with the constant policy and program changes, but there’s gold there if you do. Just ask the dozens of properties in California that we’ve helped access funds to pay for 80+% of our energy and water improvements.
Furthermore, despite all of the attempts to confuse the public on the issue, even after November’s election, more than two-thirds of Americans support action on climate change. This means that the President needs only to listen to the people on this one. But even if he doesn’t, we’ll keep moving forward either way.