Renewable energy is a hot-button topic around the world, and with that comes a wealth of opportunity for the entrepreneurial mind. In the past decade, total global investment in renewable energy exceeded $2.5 trillion, and while investment slowed a little in 2019 as a result of dropping prices for solar, overall the market is a hotbed of innovation and opportunity—two traits that draw entrepreneurs like moths to a flame.
In addition to being a great market opportunity, being involved in renewable energy is great for personal branding, too. Today, more people are concerned with the impact of climate change than anything else, including terrorism, cyber-attacks, market collapses, and political tension.
This is a concern shared globally, across the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia, and those entrepreneurs and business leaders willing to take firm steps into renewable energy spaces stand to be the business rock stars of the next generation.
As it is such a new area, and so overwhelmingly dominated by big money, government investment, and science, it can be difficult to see an avenue to get an entrepreneurial entrance into renewable energy. The good news is it’s actually much more open than you may think.
Dispelling the myths about entrepreneurialism in renewable energy
One of the most common myths about the renewable-energy business is that you need a lot of money to get into it. That perception is created by the visuals of the giant wind and solar farms being constructed to provide energy at scale to cities, if not entire states.
The reality is that there’s a lot you can do at a micro-level with renewable energy. For example, small businesses and residential homeowners are investing in solar panels and batteries at unprecedented rates to help reduce their own power bills, and those people need renewable energy specialists to consult and install the technology.
Another opportunity is in consulting. Businesses—particularly small businesses, are struggling with many of the same perceptions of green energy as people have of starting businesses in the field—that it’s expensive and beyond their means. There exists a space for experts to conduct audits of a small business’s environment, and help build an action plan to reduce energy consumption and transition to clean power where possible.
Businesses want to become more environmentally friendly; in addition to the social pressure, most business owners are aware on some level that there are savings available through renewables—companies actively managing and planning for climate change have an 18 percent higher return on investment than companies that aren’t. What they don’t necessarily understand is the pathway to get there.
Getting in With Renewable Energy
An entrepreneur that wants to develop a business around renewable energy should consider the following:
1) Are you going to offer products or services? Everyone knows renewable energy involves products—solar panels are tangible things that can be installed. What is less understood is the role of services in the equation, The renewable energy space is a highly technical, complex one, and at each step of the way, there are opportunities for expertise around service provision.
2) Where are you going to find your customers? Since renewable energy is still so new, building profiles and understanding target demographics is important. There’s every chance there won’t be many competitors you can look at for inspiration, so you’ll need to do more research to understand just what it is you’ll be offering, and which customers will find that valuable.
3) Look for where the money is going. One of the benefits of renewable energy is that it is a hotbed for investment. Government grants, venture capital, and banks all provide opportunities to ease the burden on funding your business with your own money, and most of these organizations are very keen to invest. However, earning that investment money requires an understanding of tendering and a strong business plan, which every entrepreneur should draft prior to the commencement of business.
With such interest in finding renewable energy solutions to the dangers posed by climate change, the next generation of entrepreneurs we celebrate will be those finding solutions and creating meaningful inroads into breaking down the older systems.
The world loves a disruptor—think of the likes of Elon Musk, Sir Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg, and Jeff Bezos—all of these leaders were celebrated for their ability to break the back of the incumbents for the good of humanity. The next leader to join that hall of fame may well be someone working in renewable energy.
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