Meet Camilla Wideroth
Camilla is the Chief Financial Officer at Axel Johnson Group. She has worked in various positions within the group since 2009. Before that she was at KPMG, in roles as an auditor and IFRS specialist. Camilla studied International business & economics at Linköping University. Non-Executive Director assignments: Axel Johnson International, KICKS, Åhléns and Martin & Servera
Hi Camilla, you work as CFO at Axel Johnson Group and are also new to Alight’s board of directors. What does this assignment mean to you?
– In order to reach the climate goals a number of changes need to happen. With a belief in corporations’ ability and responsibility to shift society in a positive direction, it’s incredibly fun to be part of a company that contributes to making that change.
Which possibilities and challenges do you see for Alight and the solar energy industry?
– We are at a really exciting time when solar has become a strong competing energy source for both households and companies, where the need for fossil free energy production is bigger than ever. A challenge is that the industry, not least in the Nordics, is still fairly immature. There is a lot left to do in terms of business development to make it easier and more attractive for customers to pick solar. But the possibilities that the structural growth creates are enormous.
Axel Johnson is also an investor in Alight through its affiliate AxSol since 2019, why have you done this investment?
– The first reason to invest in solar energy is that we see big opportunities for growth for many years ahead. The second reason is that solar energy is an area that fits both Axel Johnson’s long-term commitment and our wish to contribute to societal benefit. AxSol’s ambition is to invest and develop leading solar energy companies, currently based in the Nordics, and Alight is one of those leading companies.
How do you believe a Power Purchase Agreement can create value for corporations?
– Most companies, both small and large, have a wish to make decisions that in the long term shift climate change in the right direction. Through a PPA, Alight makes it easier for them to make the right decision.
Meet Sarah Chapman
Founder and CEO of clean energy finance company Faro Energy, exited 2020. Currently advisor to start-ups, scale-ups, investors and charities in the sustainability space. Non-executive director and chair of the investment committee of WRAP (the Waste and Resource Action Programme), a UK charity focused on waste and the circular economy.
Hi Sarah, you may be new to Alight’s board, but you are no rookie in the solar business. Can you tell us a bit about your background?
– I was the founder and CEO of Faro Energy, a finance platform and developer for solar in emerging markets, which I sold in early 2020. Faro Energy develops and invests in mid-size solar solutions for corporate customers, both rooftop and remotely located grid connected – remarkably similar to Alight, but in different geographies. We were among the first to offer a financed solar solution to corporates in Brazil, and the business has been a leader in the huge boom in this sector in Brazil over the past 3-4 years. I’ve spent my career to date working at the intersection of business and policy to find solutions to climate change. I started out at McKinsey & Company in their climate and sustainability practice, with the goal of learning business skills that I could apply to solving the world’s biggest problems. I then worked for Climate Bridge developing and financing carbon offset projects in China, and also spent a year helping to set up the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.
How did you come across Alight? And what does it mean for you to serve on the board of directors for Alight?
– I was introduced to Alight through Warren Campbell, Alight’s COO. I worked for Warren in 2008 at McKinsey & Company, on my first ever climate related project (on carbon capture and storage). When he joined Alight he saw the clear parallels between our two businesses and made the connection. I spent a very enjoyable couple of days with the Alight team in early 2020 on a knowledge sharing trip. I was struck by the similarities between our two businesses, and the value that we could create by sharing our experiences. I found a very strong values alignment with the team, and really enjoyed working with them. So when they approached me about the board role I was confident that I would be joining a very well run business led by highly ethical people who share my vision for the transition that needs to happen – and also could clearly see the contribution that I could make.
What could the Nordic solar market learn from the Brazilian market?
– The grid connected corporate PPA market in Brazil is a couple of years ahead of where Sweden is now (along with the rest of Europe). Brazil has around double the solar irradiation than Sweden, so solar became cost effective there without subsidy earlier. While the details of local regulation and capital markets differ, the principles are more or less the same, so there are lots of lessons that can be learned in both directions. Ultimately if solar is going to be deployed at the speed and scale necessary to keep below 2 degrees, sharing ideas and best practices between different countries is critical.
You gave the Tedx talk “How solar is disrupting the global energy system” back in 2015, what has changed since then?
– In 2015 solar modules cost around $0.8/W, and the global market was entirely driven by subsidies in rich countries – especially the US and parts of Europe. At the time, solar was just on the verge of becoming cost competitive with grid energy without subsidy in countries with high solar irradiation and high energy prices (not coincidentally including the Latin American countries that Faro started in). In most markets solar was still very new, and total capacity installed was sufficiently small that it wasn’t having a material impact on the grid. The cost of solar has fallen by ~75% since then, and it is at or past grid parity in most of the world. Global installed capacity tripled between 2015-2020 (from 250 GW to 750 GW). While having the right enabling policies remains critical, subsidies are increasingly a thing of the past. The challenge now is to redesign energy systems to cope with renewables as the dominant source of generation – so integrating energy storage, demand management, balancing and long distance interconnection.
What other trends do you see on the horizon for the solar energy industry?
– Over the coming decade, solar and wind will be the dominant cheapest sources of power everywhere in the world in the coming decades. In order to meet net zero goals, global installed capacity in 2030 needs to be 4 times what it is in 2021 (according to the IEA). So the challenge for the solar industry now is to scale as fast as possible, as widely as possible. This is true at every scale – residential solar, commercial and industrial rooftops, ground mount corporate projects and utility scale. While the technology is tried and tested, this will require a huge scale up of investment, human capital, supply chains and site development, as well as supportive policy environments for every type of solar.
Lastly, what’s your take on solar’s role in reaching the goals of the Paris agreement?
– Obviously, there is no silver bullet for solving climate change – there are transitions needed in almost every sector of the economy. But it is clear that without the radical cost reductions in solar in the past decade there would be no hope at all of reaching net zero.
Alight’s board of directors also consists of Rikard Lindström, Christian Doglia, Magnus Brandberg, Richard Nicolin (CFO and co-founder) and Wilhelm Löwenhielm (Chairman of the board and co-founder).