BERCshop: Global Energy Trends and Developing a Career in Solar

Last Monday, April 19, BERC hosted Adam James from SolarCity and the Clean Energy Leadership Institute. At SolarCity, Adam is currently the Deputy Director for Global Strategy and Policy. Adam was formerly the Senior Analyst for global solar markets at GTM Research and began his career at the Center for American Progress, where he worked on international climate policy and U.S. clean energy deployment. During that time in his early career, he also co-founded the Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI).

Adam discussed the opportunities and challenges of developing energy solutions internationally. The opportunity this presents stems from the fact that Global demand for electricity is expected to grow 40 percent by 2040, with the vast majority in non-OECD countries.

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However, there are unique challenges to building renewable infrastructure in developing countries that will need to be overcome, ranging from access to capital to regulatory stability. Adam discussed the 3 Cs that he uses to evaluate international opportunities: Costs, Capital, and Customers. Some key challenges (and potential business opportunities) that Adam discussed around these 3 Cs included labor costs, protectionist tariffs for domestic solar production, currency value risk against the USD, counterparts credit history, and the culture around contracts. He mentioned cultural trends that SolarCity has not really faced in their US business. Beyond solar irradiance and electricity rates, there are clearly a variety of factors to consider when entering international markets, and it will be quite interesting to see if large Distributed Energy players can see the same success internationally that they have in the US.

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Adam also discussed The Clean Energy Leadership Institute’s plans to potential expand into the Bay Area. CELI has served as a crucial bridge for young professionals from diverse backgrounds to develop pragmatic solutions to pressing energy and climate issues. Over 150 fellows have gone through the Washington Metro Area program and are part of a growing and impactful alumni network. Adam has published reports and article on a range of topics in clean energy finance, markets and regulatory issues – and worked extensively on analysis of solar deployment in developing countries. They could be looking for their first round of Bay Area applicants later this year!