About the Sun in the South | Southern Energy Management, EO Raleigh
Updated: Apr 7
Harnessing the power of the sun is meaningful, planet-changing work, albeit complex work. Clean energy sounds like an emerging industry for some, but for Southern Energy Management in North Carolina, they have been leading the charge since 2001. As they approach 20 years of operating outside of Raleigh, SEM is still making waves as a business that wants to save the planet, and do their best work exactly where they are.
Maria and Bob Kingery co-founded their solar business, primarily building utility-scale solar installations. These types of installations are the sprawling acres of land that, though generating a lot of energy, didn’t plug directly into residences. In 2012, the two decided to shift their company’s efforts to making these solar energy opportunities more accessible for homes, buildings, and businesses. Their current business model looks to make clean energy available on rooftops across Northern Carolina, allowing structures to make their own clean energy at the point of consumption. Solar Energy Management however doesn’t just sell and install rooftop solar panels. Part of their business efforts are also towards the consultancy end of things, assessing energy efficiency and providing green building ratings for new structures. This side of their business employs a specialized team of building scientists, energy analysts, solar system designers, and marketers to provide homeowners across America new homes that maximize the power of renewable energy. Together with their partner homebuilders, SEM is making those homes run on sustainable solar systems suited.
Even with the potential growth of solar into a multibillion dollar industry, Southern Energy Management still believes that doing business the right way, the best way possible. It’s this dedication that led SEMs management to go for their B Corp certification in 2009, something not every business can see through. SEM as a whole has made a commitment to being both transparent and accountable, for exactly how they conduct their business. At their core, they choose to maintain the highest standards humanly possible for a sustainable business. Working at SEM ensures that anyone who works with them receives a living wage, as well as education and benefits meant to increase their financial security. All 80 plus members of the team are co-creators in their business model, making operations incredibly inclusive. When we spoke to Maria Kingery about the culture that they’ve built at SEM, her love for the team was immediately evident. According to Maria, the best part about coming in everyday is knowing that “we all care deeply about our mission to transform the way people make and use energy. That keeps us all excited to come to work...(which) can get really challenging sometimes and, as my husband is fond of saying, you gotta love it to like it”. Several years ago, SEM elected to elevate key members of the company to managerial positions, sans form formal management training. Big shifts like this were made possible through the implementation of EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System. With it, Southern Energy was able to equip everyone with the tools they need to lead their teams effectively, while contributing their absolute best, regardless of their role. Maria and her husband Bob have helmed SEM from the beginning, and changes like this have helped them evolve, both personally and professionally. The value of that shift was most evident was “when we got clear on our roles and the unique value we bring to the business (in EOS-speak, I’m a classic visionary and he’s an amazing integrator), things got a whole lot easier,” said Maria. The couple have made their partnership work through a shared commitment to doing meaningful work and, of course, to each other. “We simply decided a long time ago that we were going to build a purposeful life together...we both believe we are working toward something bigger than ourselves.”
On paper, working in sustainable energy, for a B Corp certified business would make Southern Energy Management quite a fulfilling place to work. Opportunities for paid time off to volunteer, involvement in state level green policy making, and going the extra mile for their partners are some of the incredibly impactful things you may not expect to see from an energy company like this. You also might not expect to see them proudly featuring their pet office snake, and his mouse friend on their website, as well as the many companion dogs. Even with their relatively small size, it shows that SEM is a company that has not only heart, but a strong desire to enjoy the journey as well. Over the course of their almost twenty years in sustainable energy business, Maria Kingery has seen people become more open to the idea of solar. She says that “widespread acceptance and mainstream adoption due to lower costs are the biggest changes we’ve seen.” She said that back in 2001, very few people could afford to build green or go solar. “(Sothern Energy Management) had to make a market where one didn’t exist. Today the market for green building and solar is thriving.” The measurable impact SEM has had over the years shows how green business can succeed when the well intentioned meet the well prepared, showcasing what it is to be one of the best in their field. You can expect Southern Energy Management to continue shining bright as they show us all how green business can, and should be done. -----
Southern Energy Management is one of the Honorable Mention awardees for this year’s MyEO Engage Social Impact Business Awards. You can check in on their company website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages . We’ll be having a second article to take a little closer look at how SEM does their work, the smaller things that show they’re really enjoying the sunshine in North Carolina.