The clean energy transition is an opportunity for us to rewrite the rules. The question shouldn’t just be about how to create a cleaner energy future, but also a more equitable one– one that supports the differing needs of different communities while working in harmony with the ebb and flow of the planet’s natural systems. No one understands this better than our new independent board member, Shari Friedman.
I had the pleasure of interviewing her last week to learn more about her past experiences and what inspired her to join Neighborhood Sun’s Board of Directors. At Neighborhood Sun, we know from experience that building a strong sense of community requires forging genuine connections and being transparent, so we want all the different stakeholders in our community to have the chance to learn more about the incredible woman behind our newest board seat.
Much like the rest of our team, Shari is a lover of all things outdoors- kayaking, rock climbing, hiking, biking, and anything that gets her outside. She’s also a dedicated music lover who just took up the upright bass, so we’re hoping to get an outdoor concert out of her one day if we’re lucky.
Professionally, she contributes a wealth of knowledge, with over 25 years of leadership experience dedicated to sustainability. Shari has been working in climate sustainability since before those terms entered the sphere of common knowledge, becoming the ubiquitous buzzwords we hear today. After working across industries to evaluate the risks posed by climate change for so long now, she was eager to get back to the solutions side of things.
“I’ve been in this field for a long time, first coming from the investment side and then moving to the geopolitical side. I realized that I very much missed being on the project side and looking at solutions, so I wanted to get back into that in some capacity.
When I started to look into Neighborhood Sun, what really appealed to me was the focus on inclusivity. It was the way that Neighborhood Sun goes into communities, the way that they make it possible for everybody to participate. It seemed very focused on community building, community action, and individual participation for everybody across the spectrum– not just for wealthy people who have large roofs and big energy demand.”
After approaching climate change and sustainability through the lens of various sectors, such as policy, economics, venture capital, finance, and regulation, she now approaches things from the point of geopolitical risk. Shari works as the Managing Director of Climate and Sustainability at Eurasia Group, a geopolitical risk firm that has been helping businesses understand the way policies will affect them since 1998.
“As companies consider how they want to position themselves and move forward strategically, they think about which underlying risks their company will face. The risk is no longer just about climate change, but also about issues with biodiversity, water, and plastics, so I help companies understand how regulations and policies around these geopolitical issues are going to affect their bottom line. What we mostly talk to companies about is not so much the “should”– it’s not just about being a good corporate citizen, even though many businesses are doing that anyway. What it’s really about, in this case, is how these geopolitical movements are going to affect the profitability of the company.”
Climate change is a serious threat to all businesses and all living things, but we often feel powerless to do anything about it. What initially attracted Shari to Neighborhood Sun was community solar’s ability to return that power to individuals by giving them the chance to support the clean energy transition through collective action in their very own community.
“To me, the benefit of community solar and Neighborhood Sun, specifically, is that it’s the missing link required for a successful energy transition. Everyone wants to do something to help. The climate is changing and people want to be able to have an impact. Not everybody owns their own roof, so one of the pieces that I find so interesting, so impactful, and so motivating about community solar is that it enables anybody to participate in this energy transition– regardless of the size of their footprint or their homeownership status.
Then, in terms of the big impact like the shifting and movement community solar can create in society– you can get very large-scale instead of going one family home by one family home. There’s a lot of dead space in between the family homes, but if you can get large apartment buildings where previously they wouldn’t be able to put something on their roof, you can get everybody buying it so you create this incredible market demand– I think that’s where solar needs to go.”
With her impressive dedication and well-positioned expertise, we’re incredibly fortunate to have Shari helping to guide our company through its rapid growth and hold us accountable to our mission as we expand access to clean, affordable energy across the nation. As an independent member of the board and a geopolitical risk evaluator, she will be able to contribute the most objective perspective regarding our positioning in the industry.
“I’m hoping that I’ll be able to provide some insights regarding two things: the long view and evolution of the solar market from an investment perspective and also an idea of where the market is moving right now, based upon what I’m seeing in policies that affect the solar market in the U.S.”
When asked about her take on the risks we may face in the market, her answer only further reinforced our confidence in Neighborhood Sun’s bright future.
“So far, to me, immediate supply chain risks aside (as they are affecting many companies in the U.S. and globally), it seems like Neighborhood Sun is in the right place at the right time, particularly given the ramp-up on renewable energy and issues with distribution. It feels like this is a solution with uncapped opportunity.
When it comes to Neighborhood Sun and community solar, there are two things that I find incredibly motivating. It’s the combination of it being so community-oriented while also being so scalable and accessible. The community solar model is applicable anywhere in the entire U.S. which solves a huge problem faced by our country right now. There’s really no limit as far as I can see.”
Shari joined our board because she was eager to support community solar as an accessible solution to our current climate and energy problems. During the interview, she highlighted the beauty of community solar as a solution with positive impacts that can be felt both locally and globally.
“I spent so much of my time talking about big pictures and global movements that, to me, it just feels very good to be on the solutions side. Rather than just being on the ‘talking about the risks and things that are happening in the world’ side, I’m excited to be a part of something that’s creating a significant solution in both a micro and a macro way. While the scalability is great, I also love being in my neighborhood knowing that I’m making a positive impact on my own atmosphere by supporting a greener grid.”
We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Shari to Neighborhood Sun as a board member, advocate, and community solar subscriber. She attended her first board meeting last week, and we look forward to seeing her at many more.
Shari, welcome to our solar community!