Podcast #010 – Andy Klump: Inside China’s impact on the global renewable energy business

 

Andy Klump and China's role in the global renewable and clean energy business

The renewable energy industry is global, very intricate, and increasingly dependent on China. But, one American and his Shanghai-based firm Clean Energy Associates is helping firms around the world navigate this modern day “silk road”.

Listen as guest Andy Klump gives us a recap of his two-decade journey through the evolution of this industry: the role of China; why quality, supply networks, and innovation matter; and where this journey is leading the world.

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Andy Klump: Learn how this modern day American Marco Polo is weaving a global “silk road” for the Clean Renewable Energy Movement from China.

The clean energy industry is global, very intricate, and increasingly dependent on China. But, one American and his Shanghai-based firm Clean Energy Associates is helping firms around the world navigate this modern day “silk road”.  Listen as guest Andy Klump gives us a recap of his two-decade journey through the evolution of this industry: the role of China; why quality, supply networks, and innovation matter; and where this journey is leading the world.

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Transcript

Bill:
Well, welcome to today’s Freeing Energy podcast. This is going to be a really interesting conversation today because we’re doing it between my hometown, Atlanta, Georgia, and the other side of the world Shanghai, China. Coming to you from the other side of the world is my good friend and global solar expert. Andy Clump.

When I first started researching his book, I went out and met some of the people that I knew in the industry, and one of the questions that really intrigued me from the beginning was this notion that the price of solar was plummeting and it was going to become cheaper than many other sources of generating electricity.

And in fact, it has become cheaper over the last year or so, it’s an amazing milestone. But as I asked people who were experts in the field, how do I understand, how do I get my head around these precipitous drops in the price of solar, where’s it going? How come it’s happening?

I was told several times, there’s one person who knew more about this than anyone else in the world. What I was told was that about 70% of all the world’s solar panels and solar cells are made in China and if you want to understand China, there’s a guy named Andy Clump that you got to meet.

What I was told is that, Andy is an American that lives in China and has built the preeminent consulting and services firm for the world to understand and help purchase and procure Chinese solar and increasingly other products coming out of China, like batteries and inverters and things like that.

And I was kind of struck by this because I knew a guy named Andy Clump in the United States. In fact, I’d worked with him for many years, and it turns out amazingly, it was the exact same guy. My old friend, Andy Clump has become one of the smartest, most sought after people in the solar industry.

So we reconnected and I am delighted to introduce you to somebody that I have been friends with for years, full disclosure, I’m involved with his company as a board member and is probably one of the savviest people about the world of solar you’re ever going to have a chance to meet. So I’m really excited to introduce you to Andy Clump. Andy, welcome to the podcast today.

Andy:
Excellent Bill, thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be there.

Bill:
So you’re in a really unique position as you have built out this amazing company there in China, but are serving the entire world. Before we jump into your company, Clean Energy Associates, I’d like to take us back and have Andy tell everybody a little bit about his really interesting story about how he grew up and how he made his way to China and how he got into this whole industry.

Andy, you’ve been in China for almost two decades. How did a kid from St. Louis end up in China and in the solar business?

Andy:
I grew up in St. Louis. My father was a taxi driver and I really didn’t have any ambitions to do global business when I was growing up at that point in time, in the 70s and 80s. I made a decision back when I was in high school to study French because it seemed to be a reasonable choice, but Chinese was actually offered in my high school, but I said, “Why would I ever study Chinese?”

It seemed ridiculous. So I really didn’t become interested in China until right before I went to business school and I took a trip to Southeast Asia and absolutely loved it. Asia was just fascinating to me to see all the transformations. And I actually did not travel to China until 2001 during my first semester of business school, and I caught the bug and I said, “I’ve got to come to China.”

I spent a summer in Shanghai in 2002. I started saying the language. I finished my second year of business school and while I did that, I actually studied Chinese at the undergrad. And that was exactly the point in time where I said, “Look, I just love the language. Love the culture. It’s so foreign and different from anything I’ve ever experienced that I just said, I’ve just got to dive right into it.

I transitioned my career from working in High Tech and that’s where obviously you and I worked together in your previous company, Silverpop as well as IXL. And so it was really over the course of several years in China, I switched from kind of High Tech to Clean Tech.

And it wasn’t until 2006 that I had an opportunity to join Trina Solar. I was invited by one of the early stage investors of Milestone Capital to work directly for the CEO and work with the board as the company was preparing it’s IPO. And it was a fascinating time in the industry.

The company was going through a tremendous amount of growth. That was my transition to China and then to the solar business, through those early days of Trina, from 2006 to 2008.

Bill:
It’s an amazing story. And having been to China with you and watching the way you navigate the language and the culture is inspiring. Back then, particularly a decade or more ago, that was pretty unique. So what made you want to build a career in China?

Andy:
So it’s interesting Bill. When I first came to China, I felt like I came too late, and that all the growth had happened in the 80s and 90s, and there I was in early 2000s saying, “Wow, China’s had it’s most amazing period of growth back in 2001, and I probably missed all the heyday.” But I really identified with the culture.

Personally, myself growing up in the Midwest. And as I reflected on my own personal background, I pretty much had to bootstrap a lot of my own developments as a kid. I did have a small landscaping business I set up really as result of kind of oversight for my dad being a cab driver. I made a decision to say, look, I wanted to make sure that I had a path in the future that would give me a better education.

So my mom actually asked me, she said, “Do you want to go to a private high school or the public high school, because we don’t have the money to pay for the private option.” I said, “I want to get the best education I can.”

And so, that next day, actually I bootstrap my own landscaping business. And I created some small business cards called Handy Andy’s and just pass those out to my neighbors and slowly over time, it expanded and grew a business to having 40 plus clients.

Bill:
Wait a minute, you had a company named Handy Andy.

Andy:
Yes. It was not officially incorporated. So don’t tell the IRS, otherwise I may have to pay some back taxes, but yes, I work-

Bill:
With a name like that I’m just kind of surprised that you would choose another name like Clean Energy Associates, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Please continue the story.

Andy:
So yeah, Handy Andy was born back in an early day before I was even a teenager. And so I end up running and building that. I had a few team members that worked for me at that time, and I was just saving up money for high school and college. And so it got to be a point where I was able to pay off high school and then I saved up as much cash as I could for college.

And so really when I started my formal career and went down the path of working in High Tech and consulting, I put the entrepreneurial vision aside for a few years, and then it was really after business school, and then after my time at Trina that I reconnected with my passion for entrepreneurship. So it really came full circle, and that’s what I’ve been doing the last 11 years.

Bill:
So you have created a company in China from scratch based on your experiences, living there, working there, and also learning the solar industry at Trina, and your company is called Clean Energy Associates. Tell us a little bit about what your company does.

Andy:
I chose the name of Clean Energy Associates because I really had a bigger vision that we would be much broader than just solar, as opposed to calling ourselves solar energy associates. I envisioned us expanding into wind and other sectors of renewables.

When I established Clean Energy Associates, I had been receiving a lot of requests and working with many different nationalities at Trina. In fact, by that point three years into my China experience, I had business level fluency to do translation for our CEO. That was part of the IPO deal team that listed Trina on the New York Stock Exchange. And so I was translating for investors and fielding questions with the executive leadership team.

And so I really was able to build a unique network globally. One of our core investors at the time was Good Energies, and they also were the backers of the fuel cells as well as REC. And so having traveled to many different countries, I had a global audience that was constantly calling me and asking for help within Trina and I was acting in the best interest of Trina Solar as they grew and expanded.

So those same folks were calling and asking me specifically after I left if I could help them. And I started really doing work for free for friends who were ex clients and trying to help them. And I said, “You know, I should really start charging for this if I’m going to run a business.”

So it was over the course of a few months that I was constantly fielding calls and getting requests that I realized that there really was a demand for understanding how the China, crystalline supply chain operated and how one could really get deals done.

And so while I had a thesis that I would start up CEA as a consulting firm or more of a kind of a strategy consulting bent, I realized there was absolutely a demand for someone who is on the ground, who could create solutions and just get things done.

The core of our mission was really how we can help our clients and stakeholders deploy solar solutions within their respective markets by working with the Chinese crystalline supply chain. We didn’t just stop there to just work on supply chain, we also discovered there was also a dramatic difference in quality between different factories.

And so there was an absolute need for an independent third party who could objectively assess what quality was happening in different facilities. And so I started doing the work myself and realizing I needed horsepower that was a lot better, and more advanced than myself to execute this.

And so we organically built and scaled an engineering team that could help execute all of our engagements. And we did this, not just for crystalline modules, but also for inverters, mounting structures, single access trackers, and many other balance and system components.

And then over the last five years we’ve also expanded into storage. The overall value proposition is that we help our clients really kind of cradle the grave all the way from the upstream components. And then in certain markets, we also do help them at the end system level and that’s exactly why we have an independent engineering team operating in the US and in Europe who also does system level engineering services and ensure that our clients are getting the optimized level of performance on their overall assets.

Bill:
Awesome. So you built this company that’s serving the planet earth, solar farms, solar buyers, utilities across the world, and you’ve done it in China. A lot of people dream about building companies from scratch and doing it anywhere in the world, even your own country, where each of us grow up is tough, but you’ve done it in a foreign country where you only lived there for a few years. The language was a second language for you.

What were the biggest things that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in another country, and China in particular?

Andy:
So China is a tough beast for a lot of folks to fully understand, and I’ll admit it is not a straightforward business environment, but it is also surprisingly not as communist and difficult as what a lot of people think.

The Chinese economy is driven by entrepreneurs. And so there is a lot of innovative spirits and a lot of support for entrepreneurial ventures within China. Now, that being said, there are absolutely challenges. This is not as straightforward as setting up an entity in the US. The laws can change and evolve. And so there’s no easy day. There’s always a set of challenges, but it is surprisingly a dynamic environment that allows for growth and development that couldn’t happen just anywhere else.

A reflection of the overall solar supply chain and the rapid growth of manufacturing capacity, China is absolutely the market that this can happen. And so as an entrepreneur, you have to have that same motivation and drive to just overcome obstacles and make things succeed, but it’s been a very venturesome ride.

Bill:
I love it. Well, I have to tip my hat to you because being an entrepreneur is never easy and not for the faint of heart, and doing it in another country where you didn’t grow up, I think is really impressive.

But what I love about it, is that the work that you guys are doing it is making an impact on the entire world. You are helping match the amazing manufacturing capacity and capabilities of Chinese business with global markets. And you’re making that connection smoother, more cost effective, and better business for both the buyers and the sellers.

And I think that’s a great transition to the next set of questions I’m really interested in your thoughts on. If we go back in time, it was as recently as 20 years ago, the US made a major chunk of the solar cells and solar panels for the world. Fast forward to today, and the US makes under 1%.

And in that same timeframe, China went from making about 1% themselves to literally 70% of all the solar panels and cells in the world. What is it that China does that makes them so successful at making things in general and solar specifically?

Andy:
So there’s one clear answer Bill, and it’s absolutely the supply chain advantage. There’s a fallacy that government incentives or labor costs have led to this advantage, but the reality is, the Chinese supply chain can perform miracles in terms of how they aggressively just grind down costs. And we in the US don’t have that same benefit of a supply chain at scale that reaches the level of what we see in China.

So obviously government support exists everywhere, to support open new factories. So I really don’t think that’s anything that’s that different in China than it is anywhere else in the world.

And I think secondly, on the labor cost side, labor costs are just a fraction of a percent. It still is a highly automated production process, and labor in China is actually not as inexpensive as one would think. We have over 55 folks on our team, mostly engineers in China, and I can assure you the costs are not that different from the US when you’re looking for highly skilled labor.

The supply chain and the co-location of a lot of subcomponents suppliers, that’s the advantage that China really brings to the table. And I saw this firsthand when I was at Trina. I lived and worked in the factory in Hangzhou about two hours from Shanghai. We had actually launched back in 2008, the supplier co-location park and effectively all those suppliers went around the major manufacturers and built sub component facilities right next door.

So you had glass factories and other sub-components suppliers, a little bit shipping next door. And that’s part of the challenge that one faces, when you set up a module assembly facility in different parts of the world is, it is the landed cost of those components is often quite high and that’s part of the challenge.

Bill:
A little while back you were very kind and introduced to me some of your partners and networks in China to help me research the Freeing Energy book. And I remember you and I sitting in the headquarters of GENCO with one of their founders.

And we were talking about this very question. I was trying to get at, what does it mean to have a better supply chain? And his answer really stuck with me. He said, “You know, when we are running a manufacturing line and maybe we suddenly find ourselves out of a part. If we’re in anywhere else in the world, and we go through a requisition process. We’ve got to schedule logistics and delivery.” He said, “If I need something here in China, at our main facilities, I can just pick up the phone and an hour or two later a pickup truck will show up with the stuff I need.”

And he said, “That’s really so fundamental to the difference in having a co-located supply chain that was put together intentionally to make supply chain a competitive advantage.”

My additional research found out that to your point, that automation is so prevalent in the manufacturing of solar components that labor costs doesn’t actually factor competitively.

In fact, a lot of people don’t know that the labor cost in Mexico is less expensive than labor costs in China. There’s really an interesting set of things you’ve shared with us about why China has been so successful in solar and presumably so many other industries.

Andy:
It’s important to look at the holistic deployment of solar and storage solutions. But once again, the manufacturing jobs, it’s just one small component. In line with your Freeing Energy podcast, everyone knows that local energy leads to local job creation. And so the fact that there is lower costs components that are available in the market coming from China or other markets, that enables much higher job growth in their construction and the design and other high skill jobs that are going to result in ongoing deployment of solar for many years to come.

So the true growth of this industry is that it’s a local source of energy that anyone can deploy. And so supporting that local job growth and that local labor force to deploy these projects is extremely important and should not be underestimated.

Bill:
I think there’s a fundamental difference that people easily overlook between buying energy through the traditional fuel-based approaches and buying energy through clean approaches like solar and wind.

And that is, that every time I want to put some gasoline in my car, that gallon of liquid stored at somewhere often outside of the United States and had to be imported, and every time that I run another gallon through my car that has to be procured somewhere and delivered to my gas station.

Contrast that with clean energy, particularly solar, I buy it once and I install it. And from then on decades and decades, I get energy for almost no marginal cost. And I think that’s a huge difference when we think about the geopolitical competitive advantages and disadvantages of clean energy, fuel free energy, say versus traditional fuels like fossil fuels.

I think that segues to one of the questions I wanted to get into a little bit, which is about innovation. We think about the amount of energy produced. We measure the size and scale of the solar farms that we install, but I’m really interested in what’s coming next. What types of innovations do you see coming over the next 5, 10, 20 years?

Andy:
The clear answer on the manufacturing side is there is innovation happening throughout the entire value chain and so … Many folks within the US and just globally, you talk about Germany as well, where they’re effectively taking the overall system design to the next level of degree.

The innovation is not just on the manufacturing side, it’s also in terms of the overall design and construction of the solar farms together. And so every incremental way to shave cost and to improve efficiency, that is hugely beneficial to making solar more and more cost effective.

The industry has advanced quite dramatically in the last 13 years I’ve been in the industry, but I certainly say for the next decade ahead, costs will continue to come down, efficiencies will raise, and we’ll see solar become more and more cost-effective really throughout the entire world.

Bill:
That’s a great, great insight, and one that I think very few people have the benefit of hearing. So thank you for sharing it. I think a lot of the stuff that people outside the solar industry think about is the research laboratory stuff you might read about in a gadget or a science blog, where someone’s invented a new way to some new chemical process that absorbs light, and there’s some breathless article about how this is going to transform solar and lower its price. But truth be told you are on the forefront of where the real cost benefits and the real cost savings are being created, which is in how we make this stuff and how we install this stuff.

I think there’s also a tremendous parallel with what we saw in computers for the last 40 or 50 years, where it wasn’t so much major breakthroughs that caused the price of computing to drop, but it was thousands of small, not newsworthy improvements that together created effectively the Moore’s law that caused computer chips to drop precipitously for 30 years. So I think you’ve really highlighted what’s going on in a way that most people don’t get to see. So I appreciate that.

Andy:
Yes, all of these new innovations are great. It’s fantastic that R&D is going towards new innovative approaches. But the reality is, it’s that incremental improvement that’s going to allow the industry to continue to grow and expand. And innovations are happening. And it is just all those incremental innovations that’s what’s going to allow us as an industry to continue to lower costs. It’s not a wild fangled new technology that doesn’t exist for another 10 years that will really make a difference.

Bill:
I love it. I love it. And if anyone ever wants to argue about the oddities of how innovation works, one only needs to look at computer keyboards, right? Apple puts out press releases and gets breathless attention when they change the access of a switch on their keyboards.

And the irony of that innovation is that the actual keyboard layout, the QWERTY keyboard as it’s called, was originally invented because original typewriters were mechanical and they laid the keys out in a way that would actually cause people to type slower, so they wouldn’t jam up the mechanical keyboards. Yet today we do with all this amazing innovation and make typing better and faster, but we don’t change the most fundamental part, which was originally invented to slow us down.

So I think understanding how innovation really happens is key for anybody trying to understand and predict the role of solar and other clean energy systems being rolled out into our future. When most people think about solar, they think about the modules or panels that you see on rooftops and along fields, along the highway. Can you tell us a little bit more about the components inside of rooftop or utility scale solar, and where do you see innovation happening on those as a way of contributing to ongoing price declines?

Andy:
Bill, you raised a great question, and I agree that there is a lot of innovation that’s happening beyond just the panels themselves. The other core components that are commonly seen in installations are the inverters.

There are different types of inverters, depending on the type of installation. Central inverters are the most common for large utility scale deployments, but there are also some companies that have used string inverters at utility scale, but string inverters are more commonly used at small installations, whether they are rooftops for a warehouse or for small home installations, you could have microinverters.

So there’s absolutely innovation that’s happening in the power electronic space that accounts for different challenges in terms of shading or in terms of power output. So inverters are definitely a common component that has a lot of innovation that’s continuing to grow and advance the industry. Mounting structures are also quite common.

Within the mounting structures there are different types of mounting structures that exist. So fixed tilt structures, like the name implies are fixed in the ground and they don’t move. But single access trackers effectively have a single axis that is allowed to move and can actually take energy at a longer period during the day, because the panels themselves are shifted to account for the sun’s movement.

And there are even dual access trackers, which actually have two different planes by which they can can move. But dual access trackers are not nearly as common as the fixed, tilt or the single access trackers. And in some markets like India, you will see that there are a lot of fixed tilt systems in place, just because the costs are so still inexpensive. And that is a very unique market that doesn’t get the uplift of additional power output as much as you see in other Western markets.

So those are the core components really on the inverters and mounting structures, but there are other aspects to it, overall solar systems. So clearly the financing costs can be substantial. There’s also regulatory costs in terms of applying for interconnection and adhering to different regulatory frameworks. That often takes a sniff amount of costs on behalf of developers.

And then obviously labor, and while labor costs are not a significant driver, they’re clearly changing and depending on the environment that folks are deploying the systems in, there may be other labor considerations, whether it’s union labor or non-union labor, that also drives the price. So if one looks at a market where India is primarily using fixed tilt systems, the costs all in, at the system level, it can be as little as 50 cents a watt.

And quite often, if we look in other markets, the pricing could be anywhere from 20 to 40% higher than that, just because of the fact that some of these other soft costs, if you will, do add a lot to the system. And unfortunately, there’s also the reality of tariffs. So tariffs in some markets may lead to almost a 70 or 80% uplift in the cost, depending on where the manufacturing takes place.

Bill:
The systems, the design, the technology, the innovations that go into making what seems to be a very simple thing like solar, I think you have helped us get a much deeper understanding of the incredible complexity and the variations that occur across the world, because solar in the US is not the same thing as solar in India, whether it’s financing or the location of the sun or tariffs, it’s an incredibly complex global business. And one that I think has tremendous room to grow, tremendous room to continue to innovate. And I think we’re going to keep up with you as we watch these changes and we want to keep sharing it with our listeners and readers to understand the future trends.

But as we shift from solar, I think there’s an even bigger, maybe even faster change happening in the world of clean energy that you are also on the forefront of, and that is batteries or more broadly, energy storage. And these are the same kind of batteries that power our laptops or help us get our gasoline car started in the morning when we turn over the engine, but batteries add an entirely different scale in terms of going from a couple of Watts to power your laptop, to gigawatts, to power the grid homes and cities.

China is playing a huge role there. So first question for you is, tell us a little about what would batteries do for a grid and why they’re important and why so many people are rushing to create them and putting literally hundreds of billions of dollars towards this rapidly growing market.

Andy:
First of all, batteries are a mature technology. It’s been around for many decades as most commonly known as the lead acid battery, but there are a tremendous amount of innovations that are happening right now as we speak in the energy storage sector.

But a lot of the growth of battery manufacturers is really not driven by energy storage, it’s actually primarily driven by the growth of electric vehicles in key markets like China. And so the fact that storage is happening is as a result of massive amount of R&D that’s put into core technology, that’s really geared towards the electric vehicle market.

And markets such as China are investing tremendous amounts into their overall electric vehicle fleets, and that’s where one really has to put the context of, what are the developments going to continue to be like in the electric vehicle space and then correspondingly, we’ll see some similar trended buildings on the energy storage side.

Bill:
So that’s a really great insight. Electric vehicles are driving a lot of the demand for batteries. But batteries are also looking to play a very substantial role in the grid, whether that’s the rooftop solar in my house, or on my building, or in a giant field, batteries play a role that is critical to the deployment of clean energy. Can you talk a little bit about what that is?

Andy:
Bill you’re asking the right question. And the answer is very clearly that the end consumer is looking for an overall uninterrupted source of power that is independent of the source of energy, and renewables have a very compelling solution. Just because wind is generating the most amount of energy at night, but that’s unfortunately when many consumers don’t need the electricity, whereas solar is producing during the day, but is not able to meet the needs during the early morning or the late evening when the sun is down.

So as a result, storage combined with solar and with wind can provide that ongoing 24/7 coverage that the consumers want.

Bill:
Andy, that makes a ton of sense. I appreciate you explaining that. If you think about the way the markets are evolving, you’ve got electric vehicles, which are taking off, there was 4 million electric vehicles on the roads in 2018. You look at electricity storage for grids and micro grids and home systems and incredible penetration.

You look at the fact that battery prices are plummeting. In fact, Bloomberg just had a piece that said the price of lithium ion batteries dropped 35% across 2018. Within one year the price has dropped 35%. So we’re seeing this amazing price decline in batteries, just like we’ve seen in solar.

And when I think about batteries and we think about where the prices are going and how we’re going to make them, the story will once again, I think, bring us back to China. So tell us a little bit about what you’re seeing in China, what you’re seeing in terms of the world’s consumption of batteries, China’s role in providing that, the innovations, the companies, what is China going to do to help get the world, the batteries for cars and the grid faster and cheaper?

Andy:
So first of all, China is the ultimate manufacturing engine when it comes to providing large scale commoditized products. And the reality is, there are dozens of companies, if not hundreds that are pursuing all aspects of the storage supply chain that will meet the world’s needs.

And if one looks at the leading Korean manufacturers like LG and Samsung, they’ve been the strong leaders, both on advanced technology, as well as on capacity in the past, but due to the large push for electric vehicles within China, many Chinese manufacturers are now scaling at a much more rapid pace and they’re investing billions and billions of dollars into R&D to ensure that they have optimal solutions that are meeting the needs of the market.

So the reality is, we are going to see more and more Chinese manufacturers that are going global. Many companies are familiar with leading manufacturers, such as BYD or CATL, but there will be others that emerge. And CEA is playing that role of helping a lot of our core partners identify and understand those next set of suppliers that are going to attack the global market, and really try to help push for this combined solar and storage solutions that will meet the world’s needs.

Bill:
So the world of batteries seems to be changing at lightning speed, and it sounds like China’s going to play a similar outsized role in the production manufacturing of batteries for the planet. This is a really dynamic crazy market. For just a minute, put on your sales hat and tell us why CEA is really well positioned to help people who are thinking about building cars or building out grid scale storage solutions, combined with solar or not. What is CEA doing and why can you be so helpful to those companies looking to do those things?

Andy:
So certainly from a broader global standpoint, we have seen the trend of batteries playing out. And five years ago, as a company, we said we’re going to start to orient our solutions on to and also uncover the supply chain on the battery storage side. And this is really where we’ve started to build and develop organic capabilities to address the needs that many Western companies have in dealing with the Chinese supply chain, both on solar, as well as storage.

And so for batteries, we have hired a number of experts who actually have battery manufacturing expertise. We develop test protocols and teams that can go into facilities and actually look at the manufacturing practices and ensure that storage providers are actually getting the best in quality of the facilities.

The reality is, that energy storage is still in its nascent stage and does not have nearly as many independent third parties who can go in and validate the quality of the product. And so I think CEA is very well positioned, because we have a robust team and can execute this, and we’re now in the process of doing so for a number of players, not just in the US but also in other international markets they’re deploying storage.

Our team continues to play the role of being an independent third party, and that’s why our business model has been unique in that we don’t collect money from any suppliers.

Bill:
Great. Thank you. I was talking to somebody at a trade conference and I was bragging that I knew you, and they were bragging about you as well. And the comment they shared about CEA and particularly with batteries was worth sharing. And they said that, there’s practically no other organization that can walk into literally every factory in China that knows the language, has the trust and respect of the owners and managers of those factories and can come out and basically tell their customers what’s going on, making sure that they’re getting the products that they want, and in particularly with batteries, because there such a complicated and emerging new technology.

So we are near the end of our time. And as I like to do, we’re going to hit you with a couple of lightning round questions, quick answers, and we’ll wrap it up.

My first question is, you go to a cocktail party, you’re talking to somebody in China or the US that doesn’t know much about solar, certainly doesn’t know much about supply chains. What is the biggest thing they still find surprising about what you do?

Andy:
The number one thing Bill is that people, they don’t quite understand the importance of trust, but verify. One knows that the best supply chain in the world is here in China, but one still has to have independent validation of the quality that comes out of those facilities.

Bill:
Perfect. All right. Second question, everybody in the Freeing Energy family podcast and writing are really excited, anxious to get to a clean energy future, as quickly as we can. If you could wave a magic wand, what would be the one thing you would do to help the world get to clean energy more quickly?

Andy:
The number one thing I would do is eliminate all tariffs. Because the regulatory constraints that are in place for the US and other markets is detrimental for the long scale deployment of solar and storage.

Bill:
Great insight, Andy. Third question, when I talk to people and they find out what I do for a living, I get a pretty consistent question and I suspect you get the same question as well. And they want to know, what can they do to help us get to clean energy faster? How do you answer that question?

Andy:
My answer is simple. Create the demand, whether it’s through the utility or other energy providers, search outweighs for, or obtaining and purchasing clean energy. And we have seen the utilities change their tune towards solar. And this trend is only going to happen if more and more consumers demand clean energy.

Bill:
Fantastic. That is perhaps the very best and biggest insight we can share as we wrap up today’s fantastic interview with Andy Clump. Is there anything that you would like to share with your colleagues across the world, including those folks in China.

Andy:
[foreign language 00:36:58].

Bill:
And for those of us that don’t speak Mandarin, Chinese natively, what does that mean?

Andy:
That means, thank you very much for all my colleagues and stakeholders within China that are supporting the industry. We hope that the industry continues to grow and prosper.

Bill:
Thank you, Andy, for your time today, this has been a wonderful journey to understand the future of clean energy, the amazing role that China has played and will play, and on behalf of everybody and the Freeing Energy family, thank you for the great work that you’re doing to help get clean energy into the world more quickly.

Andy:
Excellent Bill. It’s a pleasure to be here today, and I look forward to all the work you’re doing on the Freeing Energy podcast. So please continue your work as well as we try to build a better clean energy future.

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