SEM’s 2019 Year in Review and 2020 Preview

Garman Home in Briar Chapel with rooftop solar system

Time flies when you’re enjoying the journey. It’s a new year and a new decade! Here’s a look back at what we accomplished in 2019 and a preview of what to expect from Southern Energy Management in 2020.

In retrospect, 2019 was a year of smart growth for SEM. We began with around 70 team members, reaching over 90 strong by year-end. We are anticipating continued growth in all of our teams as we move into 2020, and look forward to getting to know the new team members who will be joining us. While we were busy growing, we were also busy making homes more efficient and expanding NC’s solar footprint. We are happy to report that all of our teams exceeded their primary sales goals while also streamlining internal processes to help our business run even better. 

Personal and professional development was also a theme within our teams last year. A number of our team members achieved new certifications including 3 HERS Raters, 2 RESNET QAD status, 1 Unlimited Electrical License, 1 LEED Green Associate, 1 LEED AP BD+C, and 23 American Red Cross First Aid and CPR Certifications. In the coming year we will also be putting more resources into SEM YOUniveristy, our professional and life skills training program. 

Several improvements were made to our office on Triangle Drive last year. One of our favorite improvements was the installation of a water bottle filling station. Although our teams were mostly already using refillable bottles, it has been fun to watch the counter tick upward showing the waste of over 15,000 bottles averted from the landfill. A water-less urinal was also installed which has saved over 15,000 gallons of water so far. Toward the end of the year, we began experimenting with finding new ways to let more daylight into our space through the addition of three solar tubes to our facility.  

2019 was a big milestone for us as one of North Carolina’s oldest B Corps. Not only did we pass our re-certification, we also celebrated our 10th year of leading the change through the B Movement. Post re-certification, our B Corp Improvement team transitioned to a permanent role (now called B Squad), and will continue to find ways to improve SEM for our team members, our community, and our planet in 2020. On that note, we were excited to launch the Income Advance program in 2019 which allowed 4 team members to receive $1,000 emergency fund loans. Finally we are very proud to be honored as Best for the World in the Environment category for the 3rd year in a row, while also being receiving the Energy Star Partner of the Year award. 

Beyond our company’s growth, 2019 was also a year for SEM family growth. We were delighted to welcome 3 fur babies, 4 chickens, 1 horse, and 5 adorable (human) additions to the #BabiesOfSEM crew. We also celebrated 2 weddings and 3 engagements!  We are looking forward to all the wonderful things 2020 has in store. 

Homes Rated
Pounds of Carbon Saved
Approx. Saved Per Family / Yr

2019 continued a multi-year trend of record breaking growth for the Builder Services team. We saw a 20% increase in our inspection count, completing over 15,500 inspections in 2019. Our field and scheduling teams are proud to report that we managed that growth in such a way that we were still able to maintain our goal for 100% schedule compliance. In order to meet the increased demand we invested heavily in our team hiring a whopping 10 new team members + 3 incredible summer interns. We also saw one of SEM’s most tenured team members, Dave Ringenburg retire. We miss him dearly but were glad to see him off and onto the next adventure.

Our team is committed to helping you build the most efficient, high performance homes around and with that comes the responsibility of helping you capitalize on any available incentives for doing so. Because of your hard work, we were able to process almost $4,500,000 in HERO incentives in 2019 which brings our lifetime total to $15 million.

In addition to our core lines of business, we’ve focused on several exciting initiatives to better support you:

The future looks bright and we couldn’t be more excited for 2020 – If you’re just starting your home performance journey or ready to take the next steps, our team is ready to help.

Installed by SEM
in 2019
Pounds of
Carbon Saved
Approx. Average Saved Per Family Over Life of System

Residential Solar

The solar services team showed great success in 2019 in both growing the volume of our business as well as keeping us at the forefront of emerging technologies! A couple of examples of this are being one of the premier installers of the Tesla Powerwall battery storage solution as well as hiring a dedicated Solar Sales rep to work with our builders to more efficiently incorporate solar energy into new construction through our Zero Energy Blueprint program. While both of these focuses have their challenges, we believe that better streamlining both of these areas positions SEM well for growth not only today but also for the future.

On the numbers side, we helped 250+ homes take control of their energy use in 2019. Of those, around 20 were Powerwall only installations, 55 were solar plus Powerwall, and 185 were solar only projects. 44 homes went solar as a part of our Zero Energy Blueprint program! The average solar system size in 2019 was right at 8kW, or approximately 26 solar panels. As we move into 2020, we expect to see continued adoption in battery storage both with the Powerwall as well as other potential manufacturers.

Commercial Solar

2019 was a year of growth and maturation for our Commercial Solar Team. We went from one full-time team member on the commercial sales team at the beginning of 2019, to three by the close of the year. We also committed to forming a dedicated commercial installation crew for 2020 instead of splitting responsibility between all of our crews. The growth in the 2019 was driven by success in both non-profit and for profit sales — with non-profits making up more than 25% of our projects. As close neighbors to Umstead State Park and all-around nature lovers, we were super excited to partner with Strata Solar and The Umstead Coalition to bring Umstead Park’s solar powered dream to life last summer. 

Looking forward to 2020, we expect to see the strong growth of this team continue thanks to refined processes and rising awareness of the great return on investment commercial solar provides in the Carolinas.

Solar Operations

Operationally, we have seen growth in the way we structure our install team, team member promotion, and number of team members. We moved our install team structure to having dedicated AC (electrical work) and DC (roof/module work) teams. This simple change reduced the length of our installations, allowing for more projects to be completed in the year. A team member from our technical support team was promoted to the manager of the department and 3 full time team members were added. We closed 2019 hiring our 4th DC installation team, starting 2020 out with 4 DC teams and 2 AC teams. Our office support team also grew. We introduced 2 new project managers and promoted a previous install lead to Construction Manager.

Energy Efficient
Apartments Certified
Pounds of
Carbon Saved
Approx. Average Saved
Per Family / Year

The Multifamily Services team is super excited to report that in 2019 we grew to include commercial building certification and modeling services and now have projects in 16 states! Our team provided sustainability and energy efficiency services to 50 projects with a total of 6,512 units. Our team continues to exceed our goals and earned additional certifications including LEED AP, NGBS Verifier, and RENSET QAD.

In 2020 we are raising the bar again and are expecting to continue growing both geographically and expanding our services to continue adding value for our partners. We are targeting to hire 2 new team members to help continue to provide great service to our partners and help us as we continue to grow.

Check out our 2019 Impact and Transparency Report for more! 

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