During the month of October, Town Square Delaware is hosting a discussion on Jobs & The Economy, featuring written op-ed pieces and Q&As with Delaware’s business, labor and government leaders. As part of our series on jobs and the economy, TSD asked several local business leaders, entrepreneurs and investment experts for their thoughts. Today’s Q&A is with Barry Yerger, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Mid-Atlantic Renewable Partners.
TSD: What’s your general take on the economic outlook – are things going to get better any time soon?
BARRY YERGER: Well, it would depend on your definition of “any time soon”. Over the short term, say from today until the Presidential election next fall, NO. Currently, there are still too many structural problems from a global economic perspective. Many foreign sovereign nations, and their corresponding major banking institutions, have still not addressed the impacts of the 2008 credit crisis.
TSD: Specific to your area of expertise, renewable energy (particularly solar), in regards to government policy, what should political leaders and policymakers be doing right now to spur investment and job creation?
BY: First, to clarify, there is a great misunderstanding regarding renewable energy policy, which is that renewables are the sole beneficiaries of state and federal energy subsidies. Yes, renewables are subsidized, but ALL forms of energy production, including natural gas, coal, nuclear and oil receive subsidies in some form or another. That said, in order to ignite the job market, particularly the downtrodden construction industry; the US government should continue to incent renewables, particularly wind, geothermal and solar, via the existing framework in place. For wind & geothermal, it’s primarily the Production Tax Credit, and for solar, the Investment Tax Credit. Additionally, I believe US policymakers should consider adding an incentive to complement “Buy American” – how about “Built by Americans”.
TSD: We hear a lot of talk about the great potential of renewable energy, but there are huge unknowns and great risks, yet the US government seems to be placing some big bets with tax and ratepayer money. Recent stories about Solyndra, as an example of misplaced bets. Should government be picking winners and losers in this area?
BY: In my opinion, the government should not be picking winners and losers. Innovation from universities and technology centers will create the Intellectual Property (IP) needed and the best IP can usually get funded via Venture Capital & Private Equity investors. In other words, the government should not play in the corporate finance game. However, as mentioned previously, the government should continue to play a role in project financing, where IP and implementation intersect and jobs are created.
TSD: Specific to Delaware, do you think our energy policy, particularly renewable energy policy, is heading in the right direction?
BY: Concerning solar, not only is it headed in the right direction, but the policy direction of Governor Markell has the Delaware solar market on the precipice of tremendous growth based on sound policy decisions. The recent filing by Delmarva Power for approval of the Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) Procurement Pilot Program is a specific example of this policy direction. The pilot program will incentivize more distributed solar and spur homegrown job creation thru local manufacturing and local construction in Delaware by Delawareans.
TSD: What comments would you have about renewable energy projects being funded through State incentive programs, of which a high percentage of the “green jobs” are being outsourced to non Delaware based companies and non residents?
BY: To date, this is the only truly disconcerting issue that has plagued the local market. The vast majority of large solar projects, including the Dover Sun Park, have been completely outsourced, with de minimus economic benefit from a multiplier effect standpoint for Delaware. The new SREC Procurement Pilot Program, if approved in its current form, should facilitate a much greater use of Delaware based solar market participants on a forward basis.
Barry Yerger is the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Mid-Atlantic Renewable Partners. His firm provides development and project finance expertise for commercial, government and non-profit organizations considering renewable energy projects. Currently, Mid-Atlantic Renewable Partners has over 1 MegaWatt of solar projects under site control in Delaware, and is in exclusive negotiations on over 3 more MegaWatts here in the region.