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How your clean energy business can stay creative & resilient in today’s economy

In times of economic uncertainty, many business leaders experience a natural impulse to batten down the hatches and take cover until favorable conditions return. A defensive posture protects the business in the short term, but evidence shows it can hamstring growth in the long run. In fact, businesses that balance efficiency improvements with continued investments in research and development have historically outperformed competitors once conditions stabilize.

Whenever possible, it’s important to search for opportunities for growth. Those opportunities exist even in periods of recession, perhaps especially in the clean energy sector. Using the following strategies, you can position your business to slingshot to the front of the pack.

Apply for unique funding programs

A great deal of potential energy is waiting to erupt in the clean energy world. The space brims with exciting startups, and funding is funneling in from both the private and public sectors. ChargeLab was recently accepted into the MaRS Growth Acceleration Program, which equips high-growth companies with the tools they need to reach $20 million in revenue within two years. From expert strategic advice to data-driven diagnostic tools, this program can help make a downturn into an upswing. The program is still accepting applications from Canadian startups. Many similar programs exist in the United States, such as the Entrepreneur’s Organization.

At the government level, funding opportunities are also ubiquitous. Here are a few opportunities in North America today: 

Canada ZEVIP program

Canada’s Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program (ZEVIP) offers funding for the development of EV charging and hydrogen fueling stations across Canada, with the goal of extending our green infrastructure from coast to coast. ZEVIP is an RFP-based program with specific funding cycles to address specific use cases. 

Here’s how it works: At the start of each ZEVIP round, Natural Resources Canada releases an Applicants Guide. Organizations then have the opportunity to submit a detailed project proposal before the submission deadline. After a review period, NRCan sends notices of funding decisions. Successful applicants are then prompted to sign a Contribution Agreement with NRCan. Each round of ZEVIP has different requirements for minimum and maximum project size, deployment timeline, and supported use cases. You can review upcoming funding cycles on our ZEVIP information page, and find turnkey partners to assist you with the application. 

A wealth of rebates are also available in both the U.S. and Canada. Visit our Canadian rebates page for up-to-date information on programs spanning all provinces. Search for EV rebates in the U.S. here

U.S. EPA grants

The EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation offers competitive grants for businesses tackling transportation and climate change. For example, the 2023 Clean School Bus Grant Program has been allocated $5 billion to spend by 2026 on zero- and low-emission models. Application kits and other useful information are available on its website. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, on the other hand, has distributed millions of dollars in funding for research since its establishment in 1982. That money has gone to projects as diverse as poultry litter-based fertilizer and recycling robots; clean energy is a natural fit. Funding opportunities open in June 2023, and potential applicants can sign up for the EPA SBIR Listserv to receive updates.

U.S. DOE financing

The U.S. DOE offers grants, loans, and financing programs for businesses that focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy through its aptly named Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. It’s the largest investor in clean energy technology development across the entire U.S. government and has published Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) totaling over $3.8 billion. Those FOAs can be claimed through the list of open, competitive opportunities on the DOE’s site. The Department also hosts a list of EV-specific funding opportunities and several resources on doing business with the DOE.

U.S. SBA loans

The SBA’s focus is wider than just EVs, but its SBA 7(a) loan has a wide range of potential applications including working capital, equipment financing, commercial real estate purchases, and more. Each loan has a maximum value of $5 million with up to 85% guaranteed by the SBA. The loans themselves are dispersed by intermediaries such as banks and community development financial institutions (CDFIs), and the terms are highly favorable to businesses: high capital amounts, low interest rates, and long repayment terms.

Adopt a partnership mindset

Partnerships can provide major benefits to clean energy companies. ChargeLab has experienced this firsthand, as partnering with EV hardware manufacturers, resellers, and other businesses has helped us scale the number of ChargeLab-enabled EV stations even as we spend less on operational overhead.

Take our partnership with Eaton, for example. The Dublin, Ireland-based EV components manufacturer focuses on EV charging and vehicle electrification technology. In 2022, it re-launched a new line of EV chargers with ChargeLab’s software built in. The flexibility, depth of control, and ease of use included in our software made it a natural fit for Eaton's new charging infrastructure. That collaboration grew to include a strategic investment from Eaton, bolstering ChargeLab's long-term position. Click here to learn more about ChargeLab’s EV charger management software.

There are plenty of companies ripe for EV charging partnerships. We’re also closely partnered with Swedish-Swiss EV giant ABB. ABB was an early innovator with DC fast chargers, and its line of products now includes Level 2 chargers for residential, retail, and fleet charging worldwide. Our commercial partnership with ABB expanded when the company announced its investment in our CSMS last year. These leaders and others present major opportunities for strategic partnerships that can bolster both your business and theirs.

Invest in R&D

When businesses go into defensive mode, they tend to curtail their spending on research and development. The logic is clear: We need actionable solutions now, not in the future. But the fact is that R&D holds the keys to growth. 

For some more established businesses, R&D typically means conducting customer or market research, or exploring emerging technologies. But even smaller service-driven businesses can invest in new solutions or product offerings to meet their customers’ needs. Across the board, R&D surfaces new revenue-generating opportunities. Just as diverse stock portfolios are more resilient in the face of economic challenges, businesses with various revenue-generating capabilities are better capable of weathering a recession. According to research, this strategy is most effective when paired with an emphasis on efficiency, investing in new assets while prices are depressed, and developing new markets while avoiding employee reductions as much as possible. This creates a gravity assist effect, launching businesses to more tremendous success than more conservative (and more aggressive) competitors.

Stay agile with ChargeLab

ChargeLab is eager to bolster the rising tide of EV charging. Our software solution can help you scale charging infrastructure your customers will be happy to use, and our expertise can ensure it's deployed intelligently. Contact us today to learn more.

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