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Small businesses in clean energy sector still hope for best

  • Solaria CEO Suvi Sharma stands beside a PowerXT solar panel at company headquarters in Fremont, Calif. Small business owners who install solar panels or help customers use clean energy don’t seem fazed by President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, saying they expect demand for their services will still keep growing. AP PHOTO



Associated Press
Thursday, June 08, 2017

NEW YORK — Small business owners who install solar panels or help customers use clean energy don’t seem fazed by President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, saying they expect demand for their services will still keep growing.

They’re confident in two trends they see: A growing awareness and concern about the environment, and a desire by consumers and businesses to lower their energy costs.

“It’s an economic decision people are making, although it also makes environmental sense,” says Suvi Sharma, CEO of Solaria, a Fremont, California-based company that designs and sells solar energy panel systems.

Trump said he was putting U.S. interests ahead of international priorities in leaving the agreement that would, among other things, require the U.S. and other countries to report greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. is the world’s second-emitter of carbon after China, and carbon is one of the gases that scientists cite as a key factor in global warming.

Many of the nation’s largest companies opposed Trump’s move, and some have already committed to reducing emissions and are spending billions to do it.

Small business advocacy groups are split over the impact of a U.S. withdrawal. The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council doesn’t believe Trump’s action will hurt the United States.

“Even without the U.S.’s formal participation in the pact, we believe our nation will continue to lead in carbon reduction and clean energy,” says Karen Kerrigan, CEO of the group. “The market is demanding as much and the private sector and investment are responding.”

But the Small Business Majority, which has supported limits on greenhouse gas emissions as a way to help the environment and the economy, said the U.S. needs government policies that “promote the development of renewable energy and the implementation of energy efficiency standards.”

“America’s entrepreneurs understand that the future of our economy and the job growth associated therewith depends upon policies that move us forward, not backward,” says John Arensmeyer, the group’s CEO.

The American Sustainable Business Council also warned that global warming would hurt companies, giving them “a chaotic and unsustainable future of business disruptions from rising seas and changing weather patterns.”

Whether business owners outside energy-related industries are likely to support the Paris accord may depend on how much they’re worried about climate change, and whether they’re concerned about saving on energy bills.

A private equity firm that invests in clean energy companies doesn’t expect Trump’s action to have much impact on U.S. companies whose business is reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Neil Auerbach, CEO of Hudson Clean Energy in Teaneck, New Jersey, said the U.S. has been able to move away from carbon fuels with more use of natural gas and renewables.

Arcadia Power, which helps consumers and companies switch to wind and solar power for their electricity, has seen orders rise 5 percent from its usual pace since Trump’s announcement last week, says Ryan Nesbitt, president of the Washington, D.C.-based company. Demand was particularly strong for the electricity supply plans the company offers through solar power producers.

“They sold out over the weekend. We’re scrambling to get more,” Nesbitt says. Some customers who signed up for Arcadia’s service said they were doing so in response to Trump’s announcement, Nesbitt says.