Saturday, December 12, 2009

The difference between German and US solar businesspeople

On a recent flight to California, a colleague of mine met a well known solar financial analyst. She was sitting next to Joshua Redman, who went to school with my colleague -- and with Charlie Hunter. Three great people from one class - that was back in the days when California had the best public schools.

But I digress. Anyway, my colleague was chatting with Joshua, who just happened to be sitting next to this financial analyst, so they also started chatting because my colleague mistakenly thought she was traveling with Joshua. Since we occasionally come across her research in our work, he told her about what we do and talked about me. Although she and I have exchanged e-mails, she could not remember who I am, which is fine -- but then she apparently said, "If I don't know him, he's a nobody."

My colleague then asked her more about her work, and she said, "Nobody does what I do," but then refused to really tell him what it is. He says he was satisfied to leave it at that, but she repeatedly continued talking about how important she was as though to beg the question again. He says he found it weird that she wouldn't stop talking about it, but whenever he asked what "it" was, she said she didn't want to talk about it (see minute 4:40).

I was disappointed to hear about this conversation because this person's work is very good, at least as far as I can judge. We certainly need economists like her on our side. My favorite financial analyst is definitely Claudia Kemfert, though she does not solely focus on solar and generally takes a much more macroeconomic view (warning: you do not want her critiquing your work if it is not great). But it is certainly not true that nobody does what this US solar financial analyst does. I personally know a handful of people who more or less do what she does -- and, of course, we can pretty much all say that nobody does what we do. I know that nobody specifically does exactly what I do because my clients tell me so.

I'm sure that there are some German businesspeople in the renewables sector that are also full of themselves, but I honestly haven't met them yet. Indeed, everyone over here treats me as though they are glad to have me on their side. That's because German renewables advocates see themselves as brothers-in-arms in a fight to make the world a better place (many of them started off as nuclear protesters after Chernobyl), whereas Americans primarily want to make money -- even the enviros. (Note to self: write a post sometime about how movie reviews in the US always focus on the box office, whereas such reviews in Germany and France almost never mention money - we're talking about art, after all, and I'm not going to see a movie because of box office sales.)

Maybe this American analyst was having a bad day, but I have unfortunately met other American businesspeople in the renewables sector who were having similar bad days. And with solar people thinking of others on their side as "nobodies," it's no wonder the US is going nowhere with solar.

No comments:

Post a Comment