For 15 years, Southern Energy Management (SEM) has been passionately bringing solar to very appreciative customers in the Carolinas and Virginia.
“I enjoy seeing people when they buy a solar system and you turn the switch on,” said SEM co-founder and president Bob Kingery. “It’s this thing that people wanted for a long time. They finally get there and you flip that switch on, and you see the smile on that person’s face and you know you’ve helped them do something they’re so proud of. It feels good to be a part of helping people do things they’re proud of and do great things for the world around us and help our next generation.”
SEM was established with the entrepreneurial spirt to make a difference. Bob and his wife Maria started the company just after 9/11 with the objective to have a positive impact on the world. Kingery began his engineering career in the solar industry repairing solar thermal systems in the 1980s, so his emergence back into solar was an exciting path.
“We focused on energy efficiency and solar,” Kingery said of the company’s 2001 beginnings. “Both were rarely done in the Carolinas at the time. We found a nice niche in the green elite and worked to help build a market for many years. We started with thermal systems and that morphed into PV as the price of PV dropped. We don’t do any thermal systems at all anymore because the economics for PV is just better for customers.”
In addition to abandoning thermal systems, SEM has also stopped working in the utility space.
“Working for the utility side and for large general contractors who were just doing it because it was a job, a way to make money, we found that was challenging,” Kingery said. “We really want to focus on customers who share our values and want to make an impact in the world. When we go with what we love and serve the customers that love the same things and are aligned in that way, you can build a great team that understand our core values.”
Focusing on customer values also means working with them to design systems that are a best-fit scenario.
“We don’t sell them a specific type of solar system or a specific size. We look at what their needs are and what their desires are,” Kingery said. “We try to match the systems to their goals and their needs for their family and their green desire.”
SEM also helps with energy efficiency and works directly with home builders to get the best outcome through the company’s Walk-Jog-Run philosophy.
“‘Walk’ is when a builder just wants to be a little bit better. ‘Jog’ is a builder who wants to be much more green and use much less energy. ‘Run’ is a builder who wants to do a zero-energy home,” Kingery said. “We don’t put them into a box. We meet them where they are in the world of energy efficiency and green and sustainability to help them move forward in a manner that’s best for them. For residential [solar] customers, it’s the same thing.”
Sustainability is more than just a talking point for SEM; the 60-employee company also walks the walk. SEM is a certified B Corp—a for-profit company that meets rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee, according to the B Corp website. SEM doesn’t just claim to be green and sustainable, it’s actually certified.
“We’re heavily committed to corporation values which revolves around sustainability,” Kingery said. “Both internally and externally, our company is a carbon neutral company. We help our team internally live the lives they want to live as far as their impact on the world, in a positive way. Our customers really love that. We’ve been a leader in sustainability and the B Corp world for years now. That resonates well with our customers.”