Friday, August 26, 2011

How Solar Power Considerations Factor in Today's Economic Climate

With contemporary political discourse focused on the recent deficit cuts & debt ceiling issues, the mainstream news media happily covered the drama. And recent volatility in the markets had everyone wondering back & forth about the possibility of a another recession. But one thing that popped up from time to time during the debt ceiling debates was discussion of how troubling the lack of focus on the number one priority (JOBS) became as the debates dragged on. It seems that we cannot focus long enough on the number one priority (JOBS) before something else occurs to take our eyes off of it.

JOBS afterall is allegedly the cure-all to what ails us in this sluggish economic recovery. And the lack of it is what threatens us sliding into another downturn. Meanwhile, corporations are sitting on large reserves of cash, not adding JOBS, & have been quite content to reap the rewards of increased productivity. The reason for the cash pile up, by the way, is related to current economic trends (read more here) and is not a sinister attempt to undermine the economy. Anyhow, the unemployed ranks haven't changed much resulting in discouragement from this population segment & this fact further complicates the economic scenario. So, this begets the question: What do we do to change the current trends?

Well, I think there are many paths that can lead us there and it will not be one thing. Nevertheless, one of the ideas that I think is a positive consideration for Corporate America is to tap into some of that cash reserve to purchase & install solar power on their property or buildings across the country. This can mobilize idle labor capacity in the construction industry and the benefits of this undertaking can be magnified by using solar panels & other materials manufactured in the USA.

It is easy to sit back and talk about solar power as a thing of the future, as some tend to do. But doing nothing & having discussions with no follow on action will achieve little or nothing. Actions speak louder than words & insufficient activity in that arena is screaming way too loudly now for us to sit idly by. And, if we fall into the trap of speaking about solar power that way, then we will have to get used to speaking of economic recovery as a thing of the future this same way too.

Here is some interesting points on solar power:
  1. Solar power can provide reliable power for over 30 years & are manufacture warrantied for 25-30 years to a minimum of 80% of its rated power.
  2. The amount of sunlight that hits the Earth's surface in one hour is enough to power the entire world for a year.
  3. Solar panel technology is very versatile & only limited by one's imagination.
  4. It is inappropriate to analyze solar power investments as a short term investment with attendant short term expectations.
  5. Solar power can act as a hedge against future price increases.
  6. Solar panel installation can hold the line on business cost growth into the future much the same way Southwest Airlines purchased fuel contracts.
  7. Calculating the investment in solar power in terms of kilowatt-hours yields an optimal evaluation of the effectiveness of the technology. For example, in the solar sunbelt, the full installed cost (non-subsidized) of a grid tied solar power system can be about $0.17/kWh. Incentives can bring it down below $0.10/kWh to as low as $0.05/kWh.
  8. Aggregating electric power costs over a 30-year horizon with typical price escalation provides the perspective needed to compare with taking action on solar power.
  9. Solar panel installation can provide jobs to current idle labor from the construction industry.
  10. Solar panel manufacturers & other component manufacturers can benefit from locally made purchases, including adding jobs.
  11. These endeavors can be endearing to your customers. And marketing can create an allure to your brand.
  12. Solar panel installation can be designed & installed to overcome concerns about natural occurrences such as snow loading, hurricane winds, earthquakes, etc.
  13. Sustainability investing is essential to creating long-term shareholder value.
  14. Our society is demanding a sustainable, responsible, response to the JOBS crisis in America.
Strategy is "the allocation of resources to increase shareholder value in an economically efficient way." And in a corporation, the board of directors, as a body, has a fiduciary responsibility for the decisions they make with regard to corporate assets and the rights of shareholders. So, our business leaders know these things and are adept at sorting through these issues. But, in an online McKinsey Quarterly interview of David Blood & Al Gore published in May 2007, David mentions some key points that makes the case for a more long-term view in creating long-term shareholder value that I think is critical to overcoming the relative inactivity in solar power integration by our major corporations. He mentions firstly that
" is best practice to take a long-term approach to investing. We think that the focus on “short termism” in the marketplace is detrimental to economies, detrimental to value creation, detrimental to capital markets, and a bad investment strategy. It’s common corporate-finance knowledge that something on the order of 60 to 80 percent of the value of a business lies in its long-term cash flows. And if you’re investing with a short-term horizon you’re giving up the value creation of a business.
"...the context of business is clearly changing. We are now confronting the limits of our ecological system, and at the same time societal expectations of business are widening. On top of that, multinational businesses are oftentimes better positioned than governments to deal with some of the most complicated global challenges, such as climate change, HIV/AIDS, water scarcity, and poverty. Technology and communications have changed, and we’ve reached a point where civil society is now demanding a response from business."
I think these points touch on much of the exasperated sentiment that is an undercurrent of today's debate and is too often missed. Some of the issues relating to unemployment is cyclical & some of it is structural. It is very apparent that "short termism" has wreaked havoc on most households & continues to be woeful to our broader society. Meanwhile, government is mired in highly charged political debates and lack the will to do what is necessary. But, what can typically be overcome by government actions usually addresses the cyclical. However, the structural is persistent and business is better positioned than government to deal with this complicated challenge. This is where our conversation needs to pivot from the fight about government spending and onto the number one priority JOBS.

You Can Install Solar Today! How would you like to start today?

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