Community Solar and the Mid-Market: Mission Shunya with CEO Gabe Phillips (Podcast)

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Catalyst Power CEO Gabe Phillips spoke with Girish Shivakumar of the Mission Shunya podcast about the power of community solar and how the commercial & industrial (C&I) sectors can leverage this renewable asset to cut down on energy bills. They covered the benefits of community solar, how energy efficiency impacts the C&I sector, the Inflation Reduction Act, and more. 

Check out some highlights from Gabe’s interview below and tune into the full interview ( also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify). 

On the significance of mid-market businesses in the C&I industry: 

“There’s lots of focus on that end of the spectrum—the very large, very sophisticated, credit-worthy end user, and [then] there’s lots of focus and lots of attention on the residential consumer just because of the high volume of customers that you could address. But that middle independent business owner, with still significant amounts of consumption and really a group that drives emissions in the U.S. fairly significantly, was not being focused on at all. That is what I noticed as deregulation was maturing—that it wasn’t maturing for the middle market C&I customer.”

How Catalyst Power addresses the gap in the market: 

“The novel route we decided to take was to be relevant to this customer while we seek to decarbonize them. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for the customer to enter a conversation about their energy consumption with us. We thought that the best way to do that would be to be their energy supplier first. That is already a very fragmented market, the retail supply market, specifically one focused on the independent business owner…so [we] come to the conversation about decarbonization as prepared as possible about their energy consumption and their profile. These are customers that are busy running their businesses. They don’t have a 12-person procurement team that’s focused on driving sustainability goals. They are just trying to run their business, so their attention spans are short. They’re focused on economics before sustainability is a huge challenge to surmount and we needed to make sure that we were going to remain solvent throughout that lengthy sales cycle as well as come to them halfway up the learning curve about who they are and what their needs were. That’s how we chose to get in front of these customers, to first provide them with a service that’s essential, and then let them know that for no additional cost and only a modest amount of work and time, we can implement some kind of decarbonizing solution for them.” 

Gabe on community solar: 

"[Community solar] is a unique construct and it’s not even available throughout the [entire] country—it’s only in certain states where the state has put together this regulatory construct that permits it. New York is a great example. Their community solar market design is the most elegant that I’ve observed throughout the states that have it. It permits the most participants and brings a level of sophistication and simplicity to the market that I think is really valuable. So, a community solar array, at least in the NY definition, is a solar farm that’s interconnected to a utility, let’s say national grid. It generates dollar credits with every kilowatt hour that it produces. Those kilowatt hours are applied against a rate, which in New York is called the VDER rate—the value of the distributed energy resources—and that’s what generates its dollar credits. In order to access its dollar credits it has to sign up subscribers to its community solar array and has to leave a certain amount of its dollar credits with those subscribers to benefit them, and then the balance can be sent back to the solar developer or asset owner. Subscribers of that community solar array have to reside within the same utility service territory as the project itself is interconnected to.” 

We’ve written a lot about community solar and how much it benefits mid-market businesses. Talk to us today about your options for distributed energy services and where Catalyst Power can either help you earn or save money.