The Change We Need
By Savannah Kinzer, Investment Intern
The social, political, and economic action our nation must pursue to decarbonize our planet is daunting. At times, it seems as if no effort will ever amount to the revolutionary transformation our nation must undergo to meet the challenges of climate change. While this climate crisis unfolds, we are facing unprecedented social inequity in our society, which is further exasperated by the resulting environmental consequences of emissions exceeding acknowledged thresholds.
Reading and fretting about the problem is clearly not going to solve it. We must make the effort, and it starts with each individual working within their sphere of influence.
For me, the change starts locally. These past six months I have been working with a team here in Boston that develops and finances solar projects in local, underserved communities, fighting to provide them an equitable clean energy future. Sunwealth works with local developers and investors to finance small-scale commercial solar projects in communities overlooked by traditional capital. These projects create energy savings for our community partners, local jobs and market returns for our financial partners who are investing in a clean energy future.
Previously Co-oping for MassCEC, a quasi-governmental agency, I worked on incentive programs for people in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. But broad policy often misses underserved markets; communities who will disproportionately bear the burden of climate change impacts. Sunwealth started with the idea that we can put solar on top of every roof, not just on the roofs of those who can afford it. I was proud to join a team of people working to model the future of sustainable business, utilizing policy and people within the private market to create change.
Together with my partner in crime, Anna, we created content that reflects Sunwealth’s mission and values and told the stories of our many partners. We gathered the stories of nonprofits, houses of worship, schools, residents, and our developers who help these local community partners go solar. These projects create a ripple effect in their community, and it was encouraging to see the equitable, clean energy future we are fighting for, materialize.
As I worked at Sunwealth, I helped the company touch others in the community, further expanding the pro-solar network. Interviewing Reverend Kilpatrick of West Medford Baptist church, he explained that his system had inspired people in his congregation to go solar. I spoke with Shawna Tobin, a schoolteacher at Sunnyside Child Care Center, who is proud to expose a future generation to renewables from the solar on top of her school’s roof. James Neal, from Team Solar, spoke with me about solar’s impact on VFWs, which provide crucial energy savings that help their posts continue supporting veterans.
The sense of ownership these people took of climate change was hopeful, and their projects’ far reaching effect began to ease my anxieties about the future.
Just as important as the propagation of solar was getting to know the exceptional people that makeup the Sunwealth team. I have been surrounded by true industry experts these last six months. Jon Abe, CEO, is basically the “dean of solar” in Massachusetts, and I have marveled at his ability to grow Sunwealth (I will dearly miss his Star Wars and LEGO movie references). I am also humbled to have had the opportunity to work with, Jess Brooks, CDO, and Ryan Dings, COO.
Jess is one of those people, that exudes some sort of hypnotic benevolence. She illuminates our darkest of days and her passion to make this world a better place is infectious. When I was given the opportunity to speak at the Tufts Energy Conference, Jess gave me a pep talk that convinced me in my most insecure and nervous state, that people wanted to hear me speak. She has a gift: the power to make one feel important. Jess taught me the value of being a compassionate and encouraging person in the workplace, because it truly made me want to work harder.
Ryan (COO) calls it like it is. His candid humor never failed to make me laugh, and his persistence and energy drove me to do better. He can pull together a last-minute webinar and pitch Tax Equity in his sleep. Not being a business student, I didn’t know much about the economics of Sunwealth, and now we put solar on roof tops in underserved communities. Ryan patiently entertained my questions about the economic structures and Omar Blayton (CFO) was always willing to demystify the financials of our offerings.
Diving into the economics of solar financing with Omar allowed me to gain exposure to the private sector perspective. I have now pitched our model at Greentown Labs Demo Day to potential investors and spoken to students at Northeastern University’s impact investment club. Sunwealth exposed me to the realm of ESG portfolios and impact investing, leaving me more equipped and better armed for the fight ahead.
When Anna and I were first starting, the Sunwealth office was largely empty. There was no furniture and 6 empty desks. We filled the office with Ikea chairs, lamps, and tables; we hired 6 new, amazing and talented young professionals; we created, marketed, and distributed content that will help tell Sunwealth’s story; and we are now leaving Sunwealth a richer place with only more room to grow.
Thank you, Sunwealth. A decentralized, decarbonized, and democratized clean energy future is truly the change we need to win the fight against climate change.
About the Author
Savannah Kinzer is an Investment Associate Co-op at Sunwealth and a senior at Northeastern University. She is passionate about democratizing the renewable energy economy to provide an equitable and sustainable future for all.