Some of the best potential solar and energy storage projects I see never move forward, despite the fact that an organization may have a great internal champion who is advocating for the project. Here are 3 steps that my more proactive clients use to get their organizations to move forward with stalled projects — with great success:
1. Connect the project benefits to the organizations’ Strategic goals
If your organization has a sustainability plan, stated values around green principles, or a “triple bottom line” strategy already in place then you — as the in-house project champion — need to show clearly how the proposed solar or energy storage project will not only align with these goals, but will help the company achieve them.
It also helps to prepare a mock-up of what success looks like. For example, if your company has a stated goal to “make sustainability a priority in everything we do,” you can prepare a sample press release or social media post highlighting the completed project and all the environmental benefits. Share this with key managers who stand to look good when the press release goes live.
2. Don’t run an RFP
Formal RFPs are fine if you have 6 months for your internal bureaucracy to vet (and re-vet) an RFP before issuing. And even if you have the time, an RFP is only as good as the knowledge of the person writing it. (In fact we’ve put together a list of the most overlooked aspects of preparing for and issuing a solar RFP to guide customers through the process.)
If your organization has not done a solar or storage project before, there’s a risk of spec’ing the project in a sub-optimal manner (best-case), or in a non-feasible manner (worst-case). Either scenario can negate the entire proposal effort and demoralize your best potential vendors who won’t want to engage with you again the next time around.
Unless you have an extra 40 to 60 hours of free time in your schedule to become a semi-expert on a solar RFP, you may not get a quality outcome. For a quicker, more successful process, see step 3 below.
3. Do: immediately get 2 to 3 proposals
If you don’t know which solar EPC vendors to talk to, speak with your colleagues at peer companies (including your competitors), or ask other firms of similar size in your geographic area.
Tell the vendors they’re competing against a few other companies, but for best results don’t tell them who their competition is. Be up front with them that the project isn’t approved internally and that you need their help to show why this project is a great investment.
Meet in-person with each vendor to determine how serious they are about the project. You’ll be able to tell based on how well they prepare for the meeting.
Your vendors will need 3 weeks to prepare a quality proposal. Answer their questions as best you can during this phase — it’s worth your time. You’ll then need 1 week to review the proposals yourself, plus an additional 4 weeks to “dot your i’s” and build internal support before you take a solid proposal to your management for approval.
You should also plan for a revision or two to the proposal. This is factored into the 2 month time frame.
here’s why you want 3 proposals:
- You will have confidence in the numbers.
- Your management will have confidence you’ve done your diligence.
- You’ll be able to find the best deal (which is the main point of any RFP or bidding process).
If you follow these 3 steps:
You should be in a position to go to your management with a real, actionable proposal that a) shows you’ve de-risked a project and b) allows the executives to take an action which advances the company’s goals and makes them look good. Most importantly, it accomplishes both of these without using up very much of your own precious time. Even if the project isn’t approved, you’ll have greatly expanded your own subject matter and industry knowledge with minimal effort on your part because your vendors will have done the heavy lifting.
Additionally, your relationship with these vendors will be strong because you let them bid on the project based on their professional expertise, rather than forcing them to respond to an RFP with unreasonable specifications they couldn’t respect. And this is important in the long term because, if it takes one more bite at the apple before you get the support of your management, these same vendors will be happy to revise the proposal 12 or 24 months later.