SEM’s 2020 Year in Review and 2021 Preview

New home with black solar panels on the roof

We left off our 2019 year in review with the words, “We look forward to all the wonderful things 2020 has in store.” Looking back now, “wonderful” isn’t the first word we would use to sum up all that 2020 has been, but the wonderful moments that did pop up are what propelled us forward through the challenging times. Leaning on our SHINE core values also helped us to navigate through the ups and downs last year. Here’s a look back at some of those moments that SHINEd in 2020 and a preview of what to expect from Southern Energy Management in 2021.


Seek Solutions. What a year for seeking solutions (aka adapting to the “new normal” during these “unprecedented times”). Our office teams went virtual in early March, and our solar installation and building science teams continue to follow our COVID-19 safety precautions and protocols. While we had to adjust many of our “proven processes”, our team members tackled every challenge head on, and for that we’re extremely thankful. Despite all the disruption and adjustments, we are grateful to report that we met our budgets and forecasts through the pandemic and are set up for continued success in 2021.


Have to → Get To. If there’s one thing we’ve come away from 2020 knowing, it’s that we are fortunate we get to continue to do the work we do each day. We began 2020 with around 90 team members and grew to over 100 strong by year-end. A huge shout-out to each of our team members for bringing their “get to” attitude every day and persevering to lead the change in the ways we make and use energy in NC (and beyond). Growth is still on the radar, and we are excited to meet new team members in the coming year. 


Invest in the Greater Good.  Joining forces in collective action to spread love and compassion can help heal our communities. The support of our “Shine Tribe” customers and the referrals we’ve received have helped us during this time, so we wanted to pass that support forward! With many facing food insecurity across NC, we pledged $25 to the food bank for each virtual solar assessment we had, while expanding our referral program to include a $250 donation for each referral that went solar with us. Since March, we’ve donated $9,750 to the Foodbank of Central and Eastern NC. New community partnerships are in the works for 2021 with more news to come!


Never Settle. After our B Corp recertification last year, we knew there were many changes we wanted to make to our office building to make it reflect the work we do. We got to cross off a major item on our list in 2020 by installing our own solar system! Despite our office being much quieter these days, with most working from home, in true never settle fashion, we moved forward with the solar install resulting in our office achieving net-zero energy status. 


Enjoy the Journey. We certainly had to seek solutions for this one, finding new ways to enjoy the journey together from afar. Debi came to the rescue with our daily Travel Trivia challenge, Maria and Mel hosted several virtual happy hours, multiple team members led virtual courses like Kombucha Making 101 and an Intro to Wine, and Jailyn and Liz got us moving with our summer step challenge, while we all continued to reconnect at our monthly Town Hall meetings. We also hosted our first ever 100% virtual All Team Meeting which ended a great success with 100 of our team members collaborating and enjoying the journey together through Zoom.

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

Builder Energy Services

Despite the challenges a global pandemic can cause, we’re excited to say our Builder Energy Services team grew significantly along with the rest of our industry.  We consider ourselves very fortunate to have been able to continue our work, and to do so safely! Our single family team experienced a 14% increase in our inspections count and we had the privilege of partnering with our clients on 10,125+ single family projects.

To keep up with this continued growth, our builder services operations team hired 11 new team members including 3 summer interns that all transitioned to full time team members following their internship.  We’re always amazed by and thankful for the talent and dedication our team brings – These women and men deserve a round of applause for a fantastic year.

Speaking of hard work and dedication — Our builder partners’ commitment to building high-performance homes was rewarded with over $6 Million in HERO incentives processed in 2020.  We expect to see that number continue to grow with some exciting opportunities on the horizon…

2020 was also the first full year of our continuing education program – We completed a total of 6 CEU courses with nearly 100 enrollees.  Expect to see additional course offerings in 2021 with informative content that will fulfill the requisite CEU requirements for both Builders and Realtors. Be sure to check our schedule regularly throughout the year for new content and courses.

Looking into 2021, we’ll be focusing on several key initiatives to help you succeed:

Systems Installed
by SEM in 2020
Equiv. Pounds of
Carbon Saved
Approx. Average Saved Per Family Over Life of System

Residential Solar

The Residential Solar team set records again this year!  We installed solar on more than 200 homes across North Carolina. This amounts to just over 2,000kW installed or about 7,000 solar panels that our crews got on roofs. Battery storage was also popular in 2020. We ended the year with 150+ Tesla Powerwalls sold!  

As we wrapped up 2020 with a 26% Federal tax credit, we were looking to roll into 2021 with a drop to a 22% tax credit, and 2022 with no residential tax credit.  Fortunately, the Renewable Energy Tax Credit extensions were a part of the final Coronavirus Relief Act at the end of the year.  This means that the 26% tax credit is here to stay through 2022, dropping to 22% in 2023.  The details after that get a little fuzzier, but the extension gives our team and the NC solar industry great stability for the coming years, as well as room for more growth!

As we plan for 2021, we are looking at expanding our solar sales team. This will provide some exciting opportunities for our operations team to flex our knowledge and efficiencies in the field and office. 

Commercial Solar

We committed a solar field crew to the commercial team in 2020. With a dedicated team, we saw consistency and efficiency in the installations which aided in the successful completion of nearly 20 commercial solar projects (including SEM’s very own!). We also introduced a sales support role to help improve the commercial sales process. Meanwhile, our commercial solar sales team and our multifamily energy services team got to bond in 2020, working together (and succeeding) in forging the path for solar on multifamily projects!

We are planning for 2021 to be a growth year for the commercial team which will begin by hiring an additional sales representative. As we grow and mature in 2021, this team will continue to develop and improve processes that will lead to helping more businesses and non-profits in North Carolina go solar.

Solar Operations

In 2020, the solar team set an SEM record for the number of residential systems installed! We were fortunate that transitioning to working from home and implementing additional safety protocols for the health of our field teams and customers didn’t slow us down. Throughout the year, we nearly doubled both our DC (roof/module work) teams and AC (electrical work) teams. Our support team also grew with the addition of a warehouse technician, project manager assistant, designer, and 2 additional technical support members.

With high growth expectations for sales in 2021, we will see our operations team grow to meet the demand. We are already anticipating adding additional field teams throughout the year, hiring 2 project managers, bringing on more warehouse/inspection support, and increasing our technical support crew. If you’re passionate about a more sustainable future, come join us! 

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

Multifamily & Commercial Energy Services

The Multifamily/Commercial Services team continued another year for the record breaking books! While we made the move to working from home and cut back on much of our travel, we never stopped working or missed a site inspection. Pivoting to virtual meetings and inspections have strengthened our partnerships with our remote verifiers to meet our project needs. With all that, we exceeded our goals and are so excited to report that in 2020 both our team and our suite of services grew! A warm welcome to our new Multifamily/Commercial Team Coordinator & Inside Sales Associate, Kristyn, who joined our team in October. 

Looking into 2021, we’ll be focusing on several key initiatives to help you succeed:

We have also expanded our services to better support our partners to include: 

In 2021 we will continue to “never settle” and are raising the bar again. We are targeting continued geographic growth, while working to collaborate with the Community Sustainability & Reporting and Solar teams at SEM to expand the services we can provide to multifamily and commercial customers. Similar to SEM’s other departments, we are expecting to add another team member to continue providing great service to our partners.

Stay tuned to see how our impact is growing! We’ll be launching our 2020 Impact and Transparency Report soon. 

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