You don’t name your company Camelot and its employees the Round Table without a seasoning of hopefulness. Camelot Energy’s CEO Shawn Shaw confesses to seeing a reason for hope in the marriage of economic opportunity and the fair distribution of non-fossil-fuel-derived energy.
However right now there is an imbalance in how non-carbon-based energy is apportioned: for one example, the average household installing rooftop solar in 2021 had a median income ranging from 131% to 168% of the median income of its county1.
And while the US Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 has made it easier to look at investing in large-scale solar projects, it also contains many benefits that shift clean energy investment into disadvantaged communities. One of my favorite parts of the Inflation Reduction Act, actually, Shawn said, is it heavily incentivizes building projects in lower-income communities, as well as incentivizes opening factories for everything from solar modules to inverters and creating better employment opportunities for communities that may have traditionally relied on fossil fuels for economic opportunity. Still to be a financier of solar requires vision for the future. Camelot steps in to help these investors as an advisor, strategist and trainer about the many facets involved in rebuilding the way American industry and residences are powered.
Clean Energy, the Supply Chain and the Inflation Reduction Act
The US government has been working to improve its, and through trickle-down, the country’s, supply chain. This is in part about moving away from fossil-fuel dependence. It is also about shoring-up the supply chain to withstand cyberattacks. The threat to the current, antiquated grid is real and the quest for a stronger system begins right at the constituent parts2.
The Inflation Reduction Act famously gives tax incentives to consumers installing solar systems, but it has done much in a short time to shift the manufacturing of solar components and energy storage back to the US (where photovoltaic technology was born). In the past six months the US has added 100,000 jobs3 in the renewable-energy sector.
Because of America’s relatively high wages, currently 75%4 of solar panel wafer manufacturing (wafers are made into cells which are made into panels) is done by Chinese companies. But the Inflation Reduction Act incentives have suddenly made US-made solar components the most economical in the world, which is feeding a demand for domestic product. Bringing the clean infrastructure-of-the-future – solar-panel components and energy storage – back to the US gives us a more secure supply-chain posture.
The Old Order Changeth
Today solar is the cheapest energy. It’s cheaper than coal, hydropower and nuclear power. For example, solar power costs utilities between 2¢ and 6¢/KWH (kilowatt-hour); Liquid Natural Gas starts at 6¢ and goes up. This is pretty new: according to the US Department of Energy, solar installations have fallen in cost more than 60% since 2010 (utility-scale installations have dropped more than 80%)5.
The steep solar price drop compared to the relatively static costs of the traditional ways we’ve powered the country (as of this writing over 60% of the grid remains powered by fossil fuels6), combined with federal and state incentives translates to investment opportunities. But many of these investors need guidance to design, build, launch and make the projects operate successfully. Camelot’s staff advises about codes and standards and the risks associated with energy-supply contracts. Camelot monitors systems, contractors (there are more installation errors than people realize, Shawn said) on behalf of investors, strategizes supply-chain challenges and ways to increase profitability. Camelot also makes sure the projects once built operate properly long-term.
Give Mercy … Upon Pain of the Forfeiture of Honor
We see over and over how the most vulnerable are the most affected by catastrophe. Can the US stop its infrastructure from being as vulnerable as it is to enemy nation-states? Can we prevent a climate-related disaster? What will be our defense to the generations ahead if we don’t give these things our best try?
And just like in Malory’s King Arthur stories, our noble hopes are far from easy for us to hold to, with our human natures and shifting circumstances. That’s why Shawn describes his own attitude as a mix of optimism and pessimism, and why he emphasizes compassion for those investing in clean energy and envisioning a more just and sustainable future.
1 https://www.utilitydive.com/news/low-income-residential-solar-rising-income-gap-remains-California-Texas-Florida/635527/ 2 Bryley’s younger field techs have often chosen an IT path as a step toward defending the nation’s infrastructure, see Carlos’ interview. 3 https://climatepower.us/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2023/02/Clean-Energy-Boom-100K-Report.pdf 4 https://www.energy.gov/sites/default/files/2022-02/Solar%20Energy%20Supply%20Chain%20Report%20-%20Final.pdf 5 https://www.nrel.gov/news/program/2021/documenting-a-decade-of-cost-declines-for-pv-systems.html 6 https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/electricity/electricity-in-the-us.php