Jigar Shah's appearance at this week's Green Business Roundtable

Jigar Shah was our guest at this week's Green Business Roundtable, hosted at SEIA's offices in Washington, DC.

Jules Keniry of the National Wildlife Federation took notes and wrote them up in this guest post:

Three Lessons for US Higher Education from World’s Leading Clean Economy Entrepreneur

Yesterday, the founder of SunEdison, the largest solar services company worldwide, Jigar Shah, discussed his new book, Climate Wealth: Unlockingthe Impact Economy, with members of the Green Business Roundtable. He challenged business and other stakeholders to step up in ways that will “seize hold of the biggest wealth generating opportunity in a generation.”

A “100 by 100” Plan and Higher Education

Through the "100 x 100 Plan,” Shah details in his recent blog post on the Corporate EcoForum, how 100,000 companies can sell $100 million worth of solar, energy efficiency, ground-source heat pumps and other climate change solutions that will create the $10 trillion clean economy needed by 2020 to help prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

When asked how higher education could best contribute to achieving this goal, I thought he might highlight the need for more state or federal R&D investment into clean energy technologies as faculty members from UC-Berkeley and elsewhere often do.

Top Higher Education Priority

The even more pressing priority for higher education should be further research into market and financial barriers and best ways to surmount those.  We are closer to having the technologies we need to create the $10 trillion clean economy needed by 2020, he says, than we are to addressing the market and financial hurdles. Having pioneered the power purchasing agreements that escalated solar deployment in the US, Shah has a unique vantage point on further research needs in this area and how higher education might address them. 

Divestment Campaigns Overlook Better Strategy

Beyond market research, higher education could help build demand for solar and other clean energy strategies. Divestment campaigns are somewhat misguided, feels Shah, in that they divert energy from an even better strategy, which is investment.

“If student leaders would focus on securing commitments to invest 3% or more of the campus endowment in solar and other clean energy strategies,” for example, says Shah, “that would create wealth, build the clean economy, and help students gain career experience and good jobs in this growing arena.”

The New Graduate Sought by Employers

Moreover, students and faculty need to prepare students across disciplines, Shah advocates, as employers are increasingly hiring graduates from diverse fields.  “The solar field is no longer largely limited to engineering graduates,” for instance, “as it was when I started in the mid 1990’s,” says Shah.

“Today students from all courses of study, from English to marketing to business and communications are needed in solar and related fields.”

It is about hiring the best across fields, he says, not only about engineering degrees.

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