A Business Model for Solar Energy

Energy will be, no doubt, one of the dominating issues of the decade and beyond. That's why I was really excited to discover how Jigar Shah, a 34 year old entrepreneur, disrupted the field of solar energy - he achieved that not through technology innovation, as one might expect, but based on an innovative business model.

Last week, my sister Nathalie, a senior environmental lawyer at the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), pointed me to an article in the OnEarth magazine about an organization that has changed the face of the solar energy sector. She had just come from a dinner meeting with Jigar Shah, the founder of SunEdison, which has developed into the largest provider of solar power in the United States. I sketched out SunEdison's business model, which will definitely figure in our new project BusinessModelsBeyondProfit.com. Check out the slides:

The closing paragraph in the OnEarth article was particularly interesting. He stresses that the driver is NOT technology - it's the business model. Jigar Shah says:

"The big area for me has always been to come up with business solutions to address global warming," Shah says. "The thing that people have had a hard time understanding about solar is that it's part of the energy business. While new energy technologies come up all the time, technology is not the driver of the energy industry. The driver is the business model: how you get it financed and how you apply traditional risk-management methods to solar and wind and biomass. That to me is the key to solving global warming."

If you are interested in the state of the solar energy industry (in the US) you should watch Jigar Shah in the keynote below. It's the first part of a total of 6 videos, which you can find on youtube: