SOLAR, so GOOD
In James Buskowitz’s eyes the sun is the best source of power, the key to dealing with the challenges posted by our limited natural resources. Who would’ve thought that we’ve been orbiting around the solution, all along?
Does Buskowitz Energy founder and CEO, James Buskowitz act as fast as he thinks? Or does he think as fast as he acts? The answer is irrelevant. When you have the perfect idea paired with the right plan, just jump. A free mind and spirit, James’ 21-year-old self left his Hotel Management degree from Enderun Colleges a few years back and embarked on a quest for solar energy.
At first, the journey was purely practical in nature. He needed to reduce the skyrocketing electricity bills of Monaco Suites de Boracay. Even as an intern then in their family-owned resort. James was not one for complacency. Band-aid solutions to the high cost of electricity were unacceptable, especially when he knew that solar energy was common in Germany, where he grew up.
And so, that was how destiny found this quick-witted Gemini-born entrepreneur. True to the sign’s mercurial nature, James negotiated a discount from a Canadian supplier in exchange for showcasing their technology at Monaco Suites de Boracay, in order to attract a new market in the Philippines.
Founder and CEO at 22
In 2012, at the age of 22, he became founder and CEO of Energy Renewables Asia (ERA), a company that functioned as an engineering, procurement and construction company for solar panel installations and solar systems. It took two years before they landed their first client, the John B. Lacson Foundation in 2014. After the successful implementation of the project, they were endorsed to its sister school, St. Therese College, which has three campuses. This roster soon grew to include the University of Zamboanga, Arellano University School of Law, Elizabeth Seton School (Las Piñas and Cavite) and, soon enough, even De La Salle – College of St. Benilde.
What about years 2012 to 2013 when ERA didn’t bring home any bacon? “I would never give up if I see there’s potential. It didn’t make any sense why the product wouldn’t sell. At that time, people were unaware. Some people didn’t trust us because we were a new company, pitching a new product (with) no track record.
“SOLAR ENERGY – IT SAVES MONEY, IT SAVES LIVES, IT SAVES THE FUTURE”
Lean months and lean years are part of the business. The best thing to do is to strategize,” says James, who is also board president of Betonbau Phils., Inc. one of the largest construction companies in the country.
A significant investment is required to set up a solar energy system. To address the concerns of potential clients, James changed the business model to include financing. In 2015, Buskowitz Finance Inc., the financing arm of Buskowitz Group that makes solar loans and leases possible, was born. But the year before that, James had the foresight to create Buskowitz Inc. as the main holding company, consulting and venture capital business, where he sits as founder and CEO. This connects their ventures into hospitality, renewable energy and construction.
Along with Buskowitz Finance Inc., which he founded in 2015, James was able to raise capital and acquire a substantial portfolio with over $20 million in assets, primarily through rooftop solar photovoltaic projects. He led the acquisition of ERA in 2017, turning Buskowitz Energy into a vertically integrated solar EPC and investment company.
Not one to shy away from working long hours when needed, James also stresses the importance of taking care of one’s health, especially during the pandemic. For him, staying healthy is paramount.
In his company, work-from-home initiatives were already in the pipeline even before the quarantine began.
They recently invested in space, expanding their Makati office from 300 sqm to 900 sqm in 2019, by adding a second floor with a laid-back café vibe. With the added space, social distancing is made easier too.
“The office was built to be sort of a community where you can work, have meetings, have free coffee and Internet. We want that flexibility”, shares the Microsoft Excel fanatic who just can’t get enough of problem solving and analysis of all kinds.
Despite his relative youth, this rising star of the energy sector, along with his company, has been recognized for his efforts by industry experts. In 2018, International Finance magazine awarded Buskowitz Energy in both the Utility/Energy and Leadership categories, garnering recognition as “Most Innovative Solar Energy Sector,” respectively. Last year, James was also the recipient of the prestigious Paul Harris Fellow recognition for contributing to The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.
While he appreciates the recognition, James continues to work hard, pushing for solutions that could finally remove the Philippines from the list of countries with the highest electricity costs in the world–despite having one of the highest solar irradiance–the power per unit area received from the sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation.
While one aspect of Buskowitz Energy sells the systems, the other sells the energy. “If you own a business, we can put up an installation rather than selling a system, and sell you the power at a discount to what you are currently paying your electricity provider,” James clarifies, perking up this writer’s ears. He expounds, “Most business don’t have to invest anything, we can just sell you the power at 30 to 40 percent cheaper.”
James also points out that the thought of getting your own solar panel system should not be as intimidating as you would think. For a product that could last up to a maximum of 40 years and is given a warranty of up to 25 years, investment returns on purchasing a solar panel system could be as quick as three years.
“It’s environment-friendly. We can lessen potential natural catastrophes by decreasing carbon-emissions. As a result of carbon-emissions and climate change, there are a lot of lives at risk, and lives compromised. Why say no to a product that saves you money and comes with all these benefits?” asks the 30-year-old innovator.
That’s probably why Buskowitz Energy won the bud to handle an industry giant such as Coca-Cola, as well. The Coke projects is their biggest solar energy project to date, and the third biggest in Southeast Asia [sic]1. For Misamis Oriental and Bacolod alone, they’re in the process of installing nearly 10,000 solar panels to power the two bottling plants.
He also says that while the commercial and industrial sectors are certainly lucrative for his business, the residential market remains hard to tap. Still, it’s a challenge that he’s most certainly up for.
Armed with a green mind and a heart of gold, James also prefers sustainable products and supplies from local businesses for his company’s needs. Among them is Funk Trunk for its Wood Life movement. Funk trunk plants a tree for every bamboo product purchased. These customized tokens, which were extended to clients of Buskowitz Energy, have resulted in the planting of a total of 300 trees at the Yangil Aeta community in San Felipe, Zambales.
Indeed, James Buskowitz is betting that the sun will not just come out, but also light our tomorrow.
By Denise Roco-De Leon
1Fifth biggest solar rooftop installation