Coping with Corona – Stateside view with Dan Moat

Environmental legacy post coronavirus? It’s all about the dollars saved, says US market expert

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Dan Moat sits in Phoenix Arizona, the boss of Vervantis an energy broker working across the US and Mexico.

The ex-Brit is now a fully-fledged US citizen, after spending the past decade in America and as such, says the response to the coronavirus crisis has been different to that in the UK and Europe.

“The reality is its affected everything and especially in the states we’ve such a reliance on services industries like bars and restaurants, from the immediate social impact, it’s huge. There are millions of people out of work, let alone the deaths so it’s very tough,” he says.

The rapidity of the shutdown and the scale of the US makes the situation different to the UK. But also there is a different mindset he believes in America, built on their self-reliance and belief in the private sector more than the state.

“When I look at my customers they are in retail, healthcare, oil and gas, some of them are in real estate where they have got hundreds of shopping malls. They’ve all been impacted and clearly they are managing as best they can.

“But what we see them doing is focusing on efficiency, so they can come out the other side a lot stronger and a lot more focused. So using this as a pause to really reflect on their business so they come out a lot better the other side.”

He explains when it comes to energy, the individual states have got involved in legislative measures.

“Half of the states have actually mandated that utility companies should help their customers through this by deferring late fees, stopping disconnections for late payments. But it’s an unclear picture, because every state has its own regulations and utility rules. There are 3,500 utility companies here in the US and so the interpretation is different in those companies.”

He believes coronavirus has bought about a shift in thinking and that will crystallise more once the pandemic is brought under control.

He says: “For corporates, it’s opened up a lot of questions about how they operate, where they operate, how they’re going to cope with this in the future and so on?

“It’s going to be interesting coming out of this to see how the environmental argument works, in the home-working versus the efficiency of being in a space that’s properly environmentally controlled. Like buildings where corporates have a real grip on energy-efficient lighting and heat and controls.”

Will it push in one direction of environmentalism and investing in cleaner power or will it be more of the same – high dependency on fossil fuels? Dan believes the American driver is what investors want and that is good returns!

“As an organisation, we’re helping our customers with more installations of Solar PV and EV charging stations. But what’s driving it? Is it being driven by the desire to have cleaner air, or is it a customer marketing brand issue. I say it’s more the latter.

“Customers expect to see these things so the companies are responding.

“Is that a good thing? Well if we get the result, it doesn’t really matter what the motivation is, you just got to make sure things start to change.”

US investors want to invest in this and it’s all about the sustainability reports now. So it’s down to cash I ask?

“What I observe is more and more companies, want to get their sustainability credentials into the hands of external validators. There is a movement here led by investors. What a sustainability report does is give that non-fiscal measure of operational efficiency.

“They can see where the opportunities are and that’s really driving the need for change. So then lighting isn’t an issue of green-ness it’s an issue of cost-saving. And that’s where we are seeing the big push.

“It’s all about the dollars. The dollars saved.”

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