PV-Talk: Murray Cameron, CEO of Phoenix Solar

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on email
Email

Phoenix Solar, the US subsidiary of Phoenix Solar AG from Germany, recently announced the largest PV installation to date in its 14-year history, in the US state of Georgia, after previously announcing its intention to restructure away from European markets and expand into the US and Asia. Lucy Woods caught up with Murray Cameron, founding member and CEO of Phoenix Solar’s US subsidiary, to ask how Phoenix has gone about conquering the US market.

How has Phoenix managed to successfully branch into the US – where so many others have failed?

Before we decided to take the plunge into the US market, we researched for a considerable amount of time; for a number of years we watched the market very closely. We decided EU companies have a problem footing in the US so we wanted to develop our concept first before we took the plunge, three years ago.

How did you structure the re-focusing to US markets?

We took a different approach to EPC opportunities, and used our own ‘EPC plus plus’ model instead; our core is in engineering, procurement and construction, but we also went beyond this, and built a US team to offer permitting services, as permits in the US are extremely complex. We also got people from the utilities companies to help with utilities interaction. There are more than 3,000 utility companies in the US and only a handful of them – a couple of hundred or so – have been exposed to solar, so we have people from utilities companies to help with this.

We also have people from the financing sector; it’s important to have people from a finance background to help manoeuvre [through] the US financing jungle of these projects. Our approach turned out to be rather successful, so mainly we just made sure we had an understanding of the market and a wider market approach.

What is it about the US market that is so appealing right now?

It is less dependent on political will. We developed a romance with the feed-in tariffs (FiTs) in Europe; it was like a romance that blossomed, then evolved into marriage and now we are divorcing from FiTs, there were lots of political ups and downs.

In the US the mechanisms are much more local: at the state level. They are also less sensitive; FiTs are almost non-existent here, and instead they have things like the power purchase agreement programmes.

We believe the US market can achieve sustainable growth, not outrageous growth like the EU market, but more predictable and sustainable growth.

Do you think there is a new trend towards moving from the EU solar market to the US?

We have seen that here, we’re not moving away from the EU but we are focusing on our strengths in the US.

How has the EU/China trade dispute affected Phoenix and its business decisions?

It’s caused uncertainty, although we made the decision to de-focus before the EU-China dispute became a critical issue.

In general though I think the dispute has caused a lot of uncertainty for everyone, it affects every solar company as it affects everyone’s planning. I think there will be a negotiated settlement, but that is not going to come anytime soon which makes planning very difficult.

With two of your European rivals (Gehrlicher and Conergy) recently filling for insolvency, how will Phoenix avoid a similar fate?

We have taken action early on to downsize our German operations, and it’s important for every business, regardless of what sector you’re in, to watch your numbers; cost management is something we have achieved, and driven our operations into re-focusing on the US.

What other ventures does Phoenix have in the pipeline for the US market?

We’re working very hard for projects in 2014 and 2015. We do believe we have a good foothold in the US now, not just because of our recent Georgia project, but also our Chattanooga Volkswagen project completed in 2012; we’ve been working very, very hard to build strong sustainable footholds, so there is a lot in the pipeline still to come in the US.

How would you advise others on making a move or starting up in the US market?

Do your homework very well – it’s very important as Europe’s very different; it’s not easy to understand the US market compared to the European market. First we have to remember, as Europeans, that this country is extremely large. Either focus on a small part of it, or spread out nationally – which are two entirely different investments.

Could the US be the next major market for solar energy?

I think it will develop into a major market like other markets have, such as the Asia-Pacific market; there is huge demand for solar energy here.

23 February 2022
Held annually since 2016, the Energy Storage Summit Europe is the place to be for senior stakeholders in the European storage industry. Designed to accelerate deployment of storage, we examine evolving chemistries, business models, project design, revenue stacks and use cases for storage. The 2022 edition will include exclusive content around longer duration solutions, energy strategies for wide-scale deployment of EVs and "EnTech", the event which sits at the intersection of digitisation, decentralisation and decarbonation of the power system. Come to meet TSOs, DSOs, Utilities, Developers, Investors and Lenders and leave with new contacts, partners and a wealth of information.
7 March 2022
Take your chance to join the most powerful platform in the MENA region. Middle East Energy (MEE), Intersolar, and ees, the leading energy exhibitions are joining hands to co-deliver an outstanding renewables and energy storage event at Middle East Energy 2021. Renewables and energy storage at MEE is the largest gathering of solar and renewable energy industry professionals in the Middle East & Africa, offering the most effective trade focused platform to international manufacturers and distributors looking to meet regional buyers.
8 March 2022
As Solar Finance & Investment enters its ninth year, we sit on the cusp of a new power market with solar at its heart. The 2022 edition of the event will build on our years of expertise and relationships to bring investors and lenders together with top developers. Connect with leaders in the field and use exclusive insights to drive investment and development decisions for the future. Meet new and existing project partners at the largest gathering of European solar investors and lenders.
23 March 2022
When it comes to storage, the US market exceeded a gigawatt of advanced energy storage installations (weighted towards lithium ion) at 1.46 GW, more than the previous six years in total! An exponential growth rate could see the market hit 7.5 GW p.a. by 2025. The summit will provide a wealth of content around this vital piece in the US power puzzle, with sessions dedicated to explore how companies are making money from batteries, the latest chemistries and their applications as they apply to different use-cases. We ask how investors can match ESG criteria to batteries and we will bring case studies of successful deployment and project execution onto the stage to examine how you can ensure your own projects are successful.
29 March 2022
Now in its 10th sell-out year, Large Scale Solar returns to Lisbon in 2022. We are excited to gather together face-to-face with the European solar industry as we provide unique and exclusive access to a powerful selection of the market's key stakeholders. Join this elite summit to find out how the market is maturing, which new markets are becoming more exciting, how technology is evolving and who's driving the market forward into the 2020s. Always senior, packed with developers, EPCs, utilities and investors this is the event for companies serious about European solar PV.
7 April 2022
Solarex Istanbul, Turkey’s first and unique exhibition on solar energy, provides a huge opportunity to Turkey on the way to being a solar energy hub. Solarex Istanbul will take place on 7-9 April 2022 for the 14th time. It will be a commercial platform to have the latest technologies and combination of new products from all around the world. It takes place annually at Istanbul Expo Center, Turkey. It is also called the most important platform for manufacturers, suppliers and dealers of the solar industry in Eurasia.

Read Next

January 28, 2022
Greek industrial group Mytilineos said its renewables and storage unit continues with “full speed” to invest in solar and battery energy storage systems globally following a 2021 that saw the business expand its PV engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) operations.
January 28, 2022
Indian independent power producer (IPP) ReNew Power has sold its 117MW rooftop solar portfolio as part of a strategy to heighten its focus on utility-scale PV.  
January 28, 2022
Global investment in renewables rose to new heights in 2021 as solar and wind deployment surged, but total energy transition expenditure needs to triple in the coming years to get on track for net zero, according to new research from BloombergNEF.
January 28, 2022
LONGi has raised its wafer prices for a second time in just over a month as hopes of falling costs fade and China shuts down for a week for its annual Luna New Year holiday.
January 27, 2022
Renewables owner and operator Brookfield Renewable has tripled its US development pipeline to 31GW through the US$650 million acquisition of clean power developer Urban Grid.
January 27, 2022
Hecate Energy’s first stage application for a 500MW solar PV plant in the state of New York has been accepted by the newly formed New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES).

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
February 23, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 8, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 23, 2022
Austin, Texas, USA
Solar Media Events
March 29, 2022
Lisbon, Portugal
Solar Media Events
April 25, 2022
Berlin, Germany