To the Sunwealth Community: 2018 Newsletters

January 30, 2018

Hold on to the Feeling

We had three music-themed finalists for the subject line of this month's email newsletter. In the end, we went with the Journey classic – because it gave me an excuse to play air guitar in our office – and because the words ring true for those of us championing the transition to a clean energy economy. 

A chaotic time in Washington – tax code changes, government shut-downs, solar tariffs – has led folks to wonder about the future of clean energy in this country. From our perspective, the bottom line remains the same:

  • The environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy will make it the future cornerstone of our energy infrastructure.

  • The energy infrastructure of the future will be decentralized.

  • Decentralizing our grid requires robust investment in commercial solar. Don't stop believing.

Now, to our Three Big Things for this month:

  1. Want proof that uncertainty in Washington is merely a speed bump on the road to a clean energy economy? Look to the states. Here's Exhibit A from California: Governor Brown's plan to put 5 million zero emission cars on the road.

  2. If you are in Boston on February 15th, join Sunwealth CEO Jon Abe for a discussion on investing for local impact at the Social Innovation Forum. Jon will share our approach to using commercial solar as a tool for direct investment in our communities.

  3. Sunwealth's 2017 Impact Report will be rolling out to our investors in early February. If you're not an investor, but interested in learning more, email me for a copy and a conversation.

We're wrapping it up this month with three great stories from the Sunwealth team below and one Super Bowl prediction: Bill Belichick will look like the human version of Grumpy Cat. 

Until next month,

March 29, 2018

Own the Future

We love getting questions about cleantech, climate change, and investing. Folks ask if we can still beat climate change (yes), whether tariffs change the long-term outlook for solar (no), and if Trump’s policies will continue to roil the markets (pulling out the Magic 8-Ball for that one). 

Some uncertainty for sure, but here’s the good news – the future is clean energy. The transition from an extractive economy to one powered primarily by abundant, clean energy is happening, and there’s no turning back.

So now the question becomes, do you want to own the future? 

We do – and we want to own it with you. Our goal at Sunwealth is to make investing in sustainable assets simple, transparent and meaningful for our growing community of investors. 

Speaking of meaningful, check out our 2017 Impact Report to experience what it's like to invest with Sunwealth. And reach out if you’d like to learn more. 

Until next month,

April 26, 2018

Is Impact Investing Having its Moment?

We have a Good Will Hunting problem. But more on that later. 

A new report from the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), The Financial Performance of Impact Investing Through Private Debt, sheds extra light on the idea that impact investing and private debt make great music together. And the Solar Energy Industry Association’s new Solar Means Business 2017 Report shows that America’s largest corporations are recognizing that investing in renewable energy is not only good for the environment – it’s good for their bottom lines. 

As we continue to push the boundaries of solar impact with projects that lift communities and make a strong investment case, check out more insights on this from: 

Back to Good Will Hunting. Our CEO says he was an inadvertent extra in the movie. The Sunwealth team watched, and we still can't find him. If anyone can spot Jon Abe in Good Will Hunting, they'll win a Sunwealth t-shirt and coffee mug. Whatever the challenge, we are grateful for your partnership! 

Until next month,

May 31, 2018

The Power of Love

In this age of rage, I’m turning to Huey Lewis and the News for salvation. The Power of Love is a top-three 80’s movie song* and the perfect theme song for 2018. Time to turn the corner, America. 

It’s all about the Renewable Power of Love. 

We love the diverse people in the Sunwealth community – from the talented installers to our committed investors. We love the many places we build – strengthening communities by decentralizing power production. We love this planet, and we know inaction only increases the burden on our children to solve a problem we created! 

When you lead with love (and a very compelling investment thesis), we believe remarkable things will happen. Right now, remarkable things need to happen. 

Three items worthy of your time this month – 

  • Energy has a diversity problem and the solar industry can fix it. “Part of what makes the clean energy economy so exciting is its potential to embody the America to which we all aspire: one that represents a better future for everyone. But in order to realize that vision, we must create it with intention; history has shown that progress is rarely found on the path of least resistance.” Couldn’t have said it better. 

  • You can invest with power and purpose in the future of energy. Our own Jess Brooks provided some wonderful reflections on her time at the Yale Impact Investment Conference – inspiring us to ensure the invisible heart of the free market guides the invisible hand.

  • Think the big banks have abandoned coal? Think again! The institutional capital clinging to coal makes us realize the importance of every investment dollar coming into the clean energy sector. The combination of incoming investment into renewables and outgoing target returns + measurable social impact will accelerate the shift to a clean energy economy.

More news from the Sunwealth team below. When the time is right, drop us a line for coffee or a conversation about investing in the future of energy. 

Until next month,

*P.S. – Highway to the Danger Zone and Don’t You (Forget About Me) round out my top three 80’s movie songs. But I'm always up for a good debate.

June 26, 2018

My Favorite Congressional Testimony of 1988

Hey Folks – 

30 years ago this week, James Hansen, a NASA scientist, testified before the Senate Energy Committee. After confirming that Alf was not a real alien, Hansen got to point: 

The earth is getting warmer. The warming trend is almost certainly due to greenhouse gas emissions. And a warming earth will result in extreme weather events becoming more common. 

That was June 23, 1988. Today, the impacts of climate change can be felt far and wide. Comprehensive climate change policy – addressing both mitigation and adaptation – is elusive, and that sucks. 

In the absence of such policy, we see the opportunity to embrace climate change economics. Investing in a transition to a de-centralized, de-carbonized clean energy economy just makes sense. Capital ignites the transition, the transition succeeds economically, socially, and environmentally, and the policy will follow. Just a hunch. 

Two incredible posts from the Sunwealth team this month. First, our intrepid intern, Cody Eaton, just returned from Puerto Rico. You will want to read about what he found. And second, Jess Brooks penned this incredibly thoughtful piece on the resilient investment community we’re aiming to build. 

Interested in becoming a resilient investor? You know where to find us.

Three items worthy of your time this month –

Finally, we launched an Instagram page to capture the beauty of an inclusive clean energy economy. Follow us! 

Until next month,

P.S. – you can follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, too. We did, however, decide it was time to shut down the Friendster page.

August 9, 2018

If at first you don’t succeed, then try again 30 years later.

Hey Folks – 

Last Sunday, The New York Times Magazine published an amazing, brilliant and downright disturbing narrative of the ten-year period during from 1979 to 1989 when humankind first acknowledged climate change, grasped the dangers, and came so darn close to putting us on a trajectory to solve it. 

Of course, solving it we did not. 30 years later, a comprehensive solution is elusive.

Let’s look what the past 30 years have given us: Reality TV, 8 Fast and the Furious movies, the Shamwow, multiple wars, the Macarena, multiple stock market collapses. We still don’t know Who Let the Dogs Out, but we’ve done so much. 

Okay, joking aside, a lot of social progress has been made in the past 30 years. But it kills me to think generations to come will look at us as the “generation that didn’t" when it comes to climate change. 

This month alone, we’re aiming to turn on 17 solar installations across a mosaic of building types – all financed through our Solar Impact Fund and owned and operated by Sunwealth. 

Our mission is a simple one – to invest in the future of energy. We see an enormous economic opportunity in de-centralizing our energy infrastructure and a moral imperative in de-carbonizing it (electricity and heat production is the largest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions). 

Interested in harnessing the power of your investment portfolio to combat climate change? You know where to find us

St. Paul Lutheran Arlington.jpg

The beauty of those 17 solar installations is that we’re installing them in the heart of diverse communities –including our own! Our summer interns pick up on the power of localism in two great blog posts. First, solar project intern Hillary McGee delivers a detailed account of how Somerville is taking serious action on climate change, and how we work to fortify our hometown. Second, investor community intern Cody Eaton writes on reasons to celebrate our independence this summer from those pesky British – and from a centralized power grid.

Three items worthy of your time this month –

Want to own a piece of the next portfolio of solar projects we will bring on line? Reach out and let’s talk! 

Until next month,

P.S. – Don’t forget to continue the conversation by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and Instagram!

October 9, 2018

No Time Like the Present

Hey Folks – 

Our very own Jess Brooks authored a wonderful piece for GreenMoney Journal’s Future of Energy issue. Definitely worth a read.

Jess thoughtfully describes the attainable future we see: a decentralized, decarbonized and democratized energy economy which benefits all of us.

Mother Earth, however, isn’t going to wait forever (more on that below), and neither should we. There’s no time like the present to put our capital to work creating the future we want.

The 2018 Solar Impact Fund is almost wrapped up, which means we're about to launch our 2019 Fund (our fourth fund - time flies!). 

The 2019 Solar Impact Fund will feature the same diverse porfolios of commercial solar projects, with more ways to invest! We will hit the road with our 2019 tax equity and bond offerings shortly.

Interested in learning about the benefits of tax equity? Ready to invest in a clean energy future? Let’s find time to chat.

The Sunwealth team is on the move. Omar Blayton just came back from speaking at the Croatan Forum in Durham, NC. I’ll be speaking at the Landscape of Impact Investing @ Morgan Lewis in Boston on October 15th. Jess Brooks will be speaking at the Greentech Media New England Solar & Storage Forum on October 22nd.

Then, we’re off to SOCAP in SF, the SRI Conference in Colorado, and the Wharton Careers in Sustainability Panel on November 7th, where Omar will again be speaking. Going to be at any of these events? Let us know! 

Three items worthy of your time this month –

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who reached out to congratulate me for being selected to Boston Business Journal’s 40 under 40. And a special thanks to the many people who responded by saying, “I had no idea you were under 40!”

Until next month,

P.S. – Don’t forget to continue the conversation by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and Instagram!

November 15, 2018

There's No Place Like Home.

Hey Folks – 

There’s no place like home. But for a lot of folks, their homes and communities are being torn apart by the impacts of climate change. Worse yet, the communities that will disproportionately feel the impacts of climate change often see little or no benefit from clean technology. 

We refer to these communities as solar deserts. We found a wonderful partner in Reinvestment Fund who is helping us fight these solar deserts. Through a $3M loan to our Solar Impact Fund, Reinvestment Fund is giving us the opportunity to build more projects in communities that are traditionally underserved by institutional financing. 

We are proud to call the Boston area our home (even with snow in the forecast for tonight). And we’re really proud to see the spotlight shined on Sunwealth and Boston’s impact investment community

The community here is full of talented individuals using capital to address our social challenges in a variety of ways. But massive environmental and social challenges remain, which means the community needs to get bigger, as does the pool of capital. 

Good news – we’re hiring and we’re about to launch our 2019 Solar Impact Fund. 

We hear a lot of talk about opportunity zones these days. As we think about solar in opportunity zones, we see an enormous opportunity (yes, pun intended) to improve the resiliency and sustainability of communities by generating clean, abundant, renewable power right at the point where it is being consumed. Combine that with the unique opportunity investors have to defer or avoid capital gains, and the benefits of a well-managed, thoughtful solar opportunity zone fund are clear. More to follow. 

If I had to guess, everyone likes the idea of making money with their investments. If you can make money in a socially responsible way, even better. If you can make money, in a socially responsible way, and do it by investing directly in portfolios of solar projects in places you know, then you’ve hit a home run - just like our 2018 Solar Impact Fund investors who are powering a public park (shown below) in Greater Boston. 

We’re investing in projects in 9 states and in countless communities, one of which may be yours! Want to support a transition to a clean energy economy in your home state? Reach out to us

Three items worthy of your time this month – 

  • Wind and Solar Costs Keep Falling, Squeezing Nuke, Coal Plants. "The levelized cost of energy from large solar installations has fallen to as low as $36 per megawatt-hour,” which is “cheaper than the most efficient gas plants, coal plants or nuclear reactors.” Cue the Obama mic drop.

  • Climate Change and the Elections: Five Takeaways. “In the Trump era, much of the action to fight climate change has been happening at the state level. On that front, the results were mixed." Climate policy is hard, but the economics of renewables are hard to argue. 

  • The 19th Century Origins of Climate Science. “As Yale historian Deborah Coen reveals, we owe the foundations of modern climate science to a forgotten cadre of Central European Earth scientists.” Thanks Habsburg Empire, we haven’t thought about you since high school history class.

The team is hard at work this month prepping the 2019 Solar Impact Fund. We’ll introduce new investment opportunities and feature diverse projects in new communities. I’m not shaving until we launch our 2019 Fund. It is Movember after all! 

Until next month,

P.S. – Don’t forget to continue the conversation by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and Instagram!

December 13, 2018

Why Small-Scale Investment Matters for Communities, Local Economies and Investors

Dear Friends, 

A colleague recently shared with me a copy of E.F. Schumacher’s book Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. The book, originally published in 1973 energy crisis, is often considered the inspiration for the “buy local” and “fair trade” movements. In it, Schumacher argues that we need to stop treating natural resources (like fossil fuels) as expendable “income,” and start treating them more like capital – necessary for growth, but equally important to conserve and build. The core message of the book, that we need to build our economies around the needs of people, feels as timely and relevant today as ever. 

Small is beautiful. Invest as if people matter. 
Those messages get to the heart of what Sunwealth is trying to do. We see real value in the small-scale solar projects that mainstream financiers have overlooked – the rooftops and underutilized lots you see as you walk through your neighborhood. Value for communities – measured in energy savings and access to home-grown, locally-produced power. For local economies – as measured in job years and revenues created for local solar developers and installers. For the environment – measured in carbon reduction and the clean air that comes from non-extractive clean energy produced by the sun. And for investors, as measured in reliable returns quarter after quarter from an investment you can understand and feel good about. 

As we wrap up 2018, we take pride in seeing those small investments add up into something bigger. 
We have now invested over $15 million in more than 70 small-scale solar installations across 8 states. Those projects will generate more than $9 million in lifetime energy savings for our power purchasers – houses of worship, nonprofit organizations, small businesses, schools and municipalities – for whom those savings really matter. They will reduce carbon emissions by over 140,000 metric tons – the equivalent of taking close to 30,000 cars off the road for a year. And they will help create 185 job years and over $12 million in revenues for local solar developers and installers. 

Growing with purpose and intention yields far-reaching results. 


Partners like Dan McGrath, the founder of Malden-based United Solar Associates, who has helped install solar on the rooftops of Greentown Labs and Maxwell’s Green apartments here in Somerville, provide a good example. Dan started the company out of his attic, with a vision of building a business that could support his family doing work he was proud of. Eight years later, he employs more than 30 people – skilled electricians, engineers, project managers, warehouse managers and office staff – many of whom got their start as MassCEC-sponsored interns. Dan talks about the importance of using skilled labor – and providing his employees with union wages and benefits – as well as the need to offer entry-level employees an opportunity to build a career. He remembers how people took a chance on him early on in his career, offering him “that opportunity, the space to grow, the chance to prove myself and expand my capabilities – and now I try to do that for others as well.” Today, he talks not just about providing for his family and those of his employees in the present, but also about building a legacy, something he can leave behind. 

Learn from experience and translate that learning into action. 


We have built a community of partners – local developers and installers, power purchasers and investors – and a track record of helping them achieve measurable environmental, social and financial returns. In 2019, we will look to expand on that experience by more than doubling our Solar Impact Fund to grow our impact. 

We are invested, in every sense of the word. 
December is a rush in the solar industry. Everything speeds up as developers and installers work to complete projects before the end of the month – to take advantage of daytime temperatures that are still above freezing, beat the snow and ice that comes with New England winter, and capture the tax benefit for investors that only comes with a project that’s fully commissioned by quarter-end.

In the midst of it, we take a moment – just a moment – to catch our breath and give thanks to the many partners who make our work possible. We reflect on the values we bring to bear on this work, and on the value that we are creating together. We are grateful for your partnership. And we look forward to working with you to build something really great. 

From all of us at Sunwealth, happy holidays. 
May 2019 bring you and yours peace, prosperity and plenty of sun.

Until next month,

Jon Abe