The unique and dedicated team of people who work at Sol Systems have been a key part of our success over the past nine years. With a growing staff of nearly seventy full-time employees, in offices at Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and San Francisco, the driven, talented group of industry professionals have created resourceful financing mechanisms for the solar industry and thousands of individual projects. In our Employee Spotlights, we give you an inside look at some of the incredible work our team members have been doing. This time, we are featuring Christian Hofer of the SREC Trading team, to hear about his experiences and opportunities at Sol Systems.
1. What work were you doing before coming to Sol Systems?
Prior to Sol, I worked at Skystream Markets, a venture-capital-backed company pioneering electronic trading platforms in the US Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) markets. Since I joined at an early stage, before we had raised capital or were earning any revenue, my role would pivot often. I primarily focused on Corporate Development, which involved raising capital and building the business lines alongside the co-CEOs. I was also the head of the Research & Data group, which provided sell-side research and advisory services to our institutional clients.
2. How did you become interested in this type of work?
In college, I majored in finance at the business school and was on a steady trajectory to begin a career in investment banking post-graduation. Along the way, I somehow ended up as the CFO of my school’s organic gardening club. The experience and the people I met opened my eyes to how valuable our Earth’s “Natural Capital” is and I became inspired to learn more about how to save it. As part of my university honors program, I researched carbon markets and ended up writing my senior thesis on deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and how carbon offsets could be used as a financing mechanism to enable reforestation projects. These two paths allowed me to combine my interest in financial markets and sustainable development, and so I ended up pursuing work in project finance and environmental markets after school.
3. What made you want to start a career at Sol Systems specifically?
Sol Systems has one of the largest Solar Renewable Energy Certificate portfolios in the country. The prospect of using my institutional research skills and in-depth REC market knowledge to help manage Sol’s portfolio on the trading desk was very exciting. Moving roles from a transactional intermediary to a principal investor was the direction I wanted to take my finance career and Sol offered me a unique opportunity to do that while staying in the environmental markets.
4. Since joining the team, what has been your favorite part about working here?
The culture. Sol is an innovative company with a lot of young, smart, and ambitious people. In the workplace, debate is accepted, collaboration is encouraged, and there is transparency throughout the firm. I particularly like how employees at Sol can hold roles and manage responsibilities usually reserved for people many years their senior. This is uncommon in more traditional financial settings and is one of the many privileges of working at Sol Systems.
5. How have you seen the environmental commodity trading business change since the time you started working?
When I started working in the industry in 2011, there was still some hope for a global carbon market led by an internationally-coordinated framework. Since then, there has been a strong shift away from this approach towards regionally led initiatives at the provincial, state, and city levels. Kyoto-era markets have unfortunately not been able to maintain their effectiveness as a market-based solution to mobilize the capital markets at the scale required to avert the largest risks of climate change. Progress has also slowed in terms of new policies that use trade-capable environmental commodities to achieve sustainability goals. There is a definite need to continue to educate policymakers and businesses about the benefits of pursuing environmental goals through market-based solutions. This includes the use of renewable portfolio standards, renewable fuel standards, cap-and-trade emissions / offset markets, water quality, quantity, and storm water credit markets, and biodiversity offsets (as well as broader deregulation of utility monopolies, which generally inhibit competition and innovation). Personally, I’m of the opinion that environmental markets are the key to aligning financial markets with true sustainable development at a meaningful scale. We’ve got a lot of work to do on that front and the old adage is that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Environmental markets are all about defining, measuring, and achieving progress.
6. What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to travel, ski, play music, stay in touch with friends, and spend time in nature.
ABOUT SOL SYSTEMS
Sol Systems, a national solar finance and development firm, delivers sophisticated, customized services for institutional, corporate, and municipal customers. Sol is employee-owned, and has been profitable since inception in 2008. Sol is backed by Sempra Energy, a $25+ billion energy company.
Over the last eight years, Sol Systems has delivered more than 600MW of solar projects for Fortune 100 companies, municipalities, universities, churches, and small businesses. Sol now manages over $650 million in solar energy assets for utilities, banks, and Fortune 500 companies.
Inc. 5000 recognized Sol Systems in its annual list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies for four consecutive years. For more information, please visit www.solsystems.com.