Launching a Solar Energy Business in China with Geof Moser, of Symtech Solar Group

Geof Moser works at the Symtech Solar Group in China who specialise in Solar PV Kits for both domestic and international markets.

We talk with Geof about his experiences navigation through China’s business landscape and how he see’s the solar energy ecosystem developing in China.

Geof, please introduce yourself…

My name is Geof, I work for Symtech Solar Group, a solar energy company specializing in Solar PV Kits based in Shanghai China.

My background in solar energy started at Arizona State University while studying for my master’s degree in renewable energy technologies particularly focused in solar energy and fuel cells.

From there I have worked for companies like TUV Rhienland to Upsolar Group, Shoals
Technologies Group, to now Symtech Solar Group.

What’s the story behind creating Symtech Solar?

Over the years I and my business partners have been looking for an easier way to get average people involved with solar energy and not feeling like outsiders during the process. This problem is where Symtech Solar provides a solutions and why we were founded.

Looking for an easier way to bring the largest manufacturing base of solar PV from China to those in other regions of the world without the huge headache of buying from overseas, Symtech offers not only solar products but puts them together from a variety of different manufacturers to offer complete solar energy solution packages that are easier for installers, distributers, wholesalers, and end users alike.

We look at it much like an automobile as you don’t want to buy just an engine or a seat but the whole car as a package. That’s what Symtech offers its clients.

One last little detail too; we also really care about the environment and think that solar PV is one of the best ways to significantly reduce the negative human impact on our environment.

How do you see the solar energy ecosystem developing in China?

There has already been huge development in the solar energy space in China over the last 10 years. The Chinese Government has provided good support for the local manufacturers and provided them with low interest loans on both land and capital.

Over the last few years the Gov’t policy has become a bit more regulated as to slow the rapid oversupply particularly of cheap Chinese solar panels.

In 2012 and 2013 the Chinese Gov’t has begun to realize that the solar PV is not just an export commodity for manufacturers but also a chance to provide a much needed clean energy base for the future.

Now there is a push for more distributed solar generation projects which can provide a lot of new opportunities for both local manufacturers and companies like Symtech Solar to begin creating an installation business that supports the
local economy with solar energy systems.

Still, there is a need for better policy on solar energy codes and standards like those in North America and Europe to make sure systems are being installed safely and efficiently.

What are the primary challenges of running a solar energy business in China, and what are the solutions?

Symtech’s primary challenges are the same as many other smaller businesses. As foreigners coming to China, we needed to find the right manufacturing partners, advisors and local representatives that can help us without being taken advantage of.

The solution was based around our experience and relationships we had established while doing other work before Symtech Solar was established.

China has the largest solar manufacturing base in the world and there are lots of ‘haves and have not’s’ that have come and gone within the industry.

We have been lucky enough over the years to work with some of the top solar energy companies from both China and abroad establishing well rooted relationships that enable us to provide better service and products for our clients.

What advice would you give to the Chinese government to better regulate and foster the solar PV industry in China?

The Chinese gov’t is making significant changes to the clean energy sector and in particular Solar PV. After the Chinese New Years in 2014 we are expected to see a more favorable process for getting solar projects online with the local utilities.

In the past there were policies in place to allow for grid connected solar projects but getting the approval was often difficult to impossible. Hopefully 2014 will change all this and allow the development of many small and medium sized solar installation businesses to be established.

Solar PV can be inherently dangerous to the installer and many PV systems are installed on roofs where the risk of elevated falls is higher then working at ground level.

Countries like the USA have installer certification programs like NABCEP that enables the industry to be more organized and congruent with installation best practices, national electric codes and safety.

What advice can you share with entrepreneurs wanting to start or expand their business into China?

A few things. Speaking Chinese will improve your efficiency and chances of making good relations. Also think about finding a local partner that can help you enter the local market or help advise you on the details of how to operate your business legally and efficiently.

What are some common ways you see foreigners getting taken advantage of in China, and what can they do to prevent this?

China seems pretty safe overall for foreigners although one of the areas to be careful of is working for Chinese companies and not getting full compensation once you leave.

This is a problem for locals as well as foreigners and there are protective services available in many of the major cities.

Beside solar energy, what business opportunities do you see emerging in China right now?

I think there are lots of opportunities within China as it’s the fastest growing market in the world. With that detail it’s often not as straight forward as it might seem in terms of starting a business.

China has specific policies in place regarding foreigners doing business in China and the new Free Trade Zone in Pudong Shanghai is now making it a bit easier for people to legally register their businesses and do business within China.

In regards to the business opportunities, I believe energy, IT, health/food, and communications have great potential for growth. There is lots of new money in China and people are looking for places to spend it.

In terms of energy and communications, those markets have to be continually developed to keep up with future growth and public demands. For us at Symtech Solar, we see the huge growth in China and how its impacting the people and the environment.

There is great concern I believe among Chinese people to begin to clean up the environment so that future generations are not deprived of a healthy environment to grow up in.

Can you elaborate a little more about the Free Trade Zone in Pudong, Shanghai?

]My understanding from what I hear on the local news is that the new Free Trade Zone in Shanghai is an area used to establish easier business in China for importing and exporting.

The major upside is it also allows both locals and foreigners to establish a local entity much like in Hong Kong, with lower gov’t fees and paperwork.

What’s next for Symtech Solar?

Now in 2014 we are looking to increase our customer base and expand the business. Symtech has been putting its house in order to in order to reach out to potential investors that are ready to get involved with us.

We aren’t a startup and have been working hard to prove our product lines, business model, and show continual sustained growth as a business. We have done this and hope in 2014 to dramatically improve our results with the help of a honest and dedicated new partner.

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