With rising energy costs all over the world, every single person is looking for a way to save. Solar energy continues to be one of the most effective ways of reducing costs while also reducing your carbon footprint…some might say it’s a win/win! Which is why we sat down with Mark Shelley from Sun Kissed Energy to find out about how he got here, how he runs his business, and where he sees the future of green energy.
As a teenager in high school, Mark said he had always had an interest in green energy solutions. He was bothered by the way technology, like gas vehicles, polluted the air. He would spend time tinkering, trying to find new and unique ways to make technology work. He was always interested in batteries and the renewable energy sector. It bothered him that we were using fossil fuels to supply our energy needs. Of most interest to him was designing an energy system that could run on renewable energy so he could power his family’s cottage without the need for fossil fuels. When the solar industry started gaining momentum, he knew that he wanted to be part of it.
Even though he was genuinely curious about green energy it didn’t translate into full time work right away. He originally focused his training and studies on the aviation industry. However, when he started looking for work, the industry wasn’t offering many opportunities. So, he switched gears and started a new flight path on what was a successful career in the insurance industry for over 17 years.
When COVID hit, Mark found himself at a crossroads. His goal had been to transition his entrepreneurial energy into the solar industry by the year 2025, but the pandemic gave him an opportunity to speed up that timeline. So, he decided to take the leap and transitioned into energy services in October of 2020.
What is most apparent when you hear Mark talk about solar energy, is his love for the planet, and wanting to help it survive for future generations. “There’s just something, I don’t know how to explain it to you, but I’ll try. There’s no better feeling than getting up in the morning, knowing that all your energy use is offset in some way, shape or form due to solar. Even my drive to work is offset with solar… it’s more than just financial, it’s just kind of neat to be able to do everything that we need to do in our lives from the energy that comes directly from the sun with a small carbon footprint,” said Mark. He goes on to say, “We have one beautiful earth, especially here in Atlantic Canada, I love it here. There is no reason to do any more environmental damage to it than what we have already done and if there is a better way to generate energy to meet our daily needs and protect the environment at the same time, then we should look at that alternative. Plus, I can’t think of one negative drawback from going solar.” The genuine love for the work is also palpable in the Sun Kissed Energy staff. They are all friendly, knowledgeable, and most of all, happy to be there, to be part of this important work, and to try to do their part to make this world a greener, healthier place.
As solar energy solutions become more and more popular, Sun Kissed Energy wants to keep up with the times and the demand. They are in the process of expanding and adding new locations around Nova Scotia, which means, they are going to be expanding their staff from 24 to 32 in the coming months.
Sun Kissed is always looking for solar installers, staff, and electricians. For people looking to join his team as part of their design team, there is a short five-day course you can take. But mostly, “It’s just learning from experience. We do all our training in house.”
When you work with the team at Sun Kissed Energy, you should know that one of their biggest mantras is never cutting corners. Moral and ethical standards are the cornerstones of the organization, and Mark makes sure every staff, current and new, knows that’s how things are done. It all starts with treating staff kindly and creating an environment that team members want to be a part of, which he believes translates into exceptional customer service and project experience for their clients. Mark tells us, “I always say that if you want to come to learn, be treated right and have fun while treating our customers right, then this is the place to work. Now I might be a little biased, but I believe that to be true.” While the move into the world of solar power can feel quite overwhelming to most, Mark spends the time educating himself, and his staff, on every detail of the business. This is vital so that consumers leave informed and understanding all aspects of their project and what to expect.
Mark and the team are now shifting some of their focus on the future of the industry with research and development. Looking into ways we can take the technology we have now and make it even better and more accessible in the future. Taking products like batteries and putting them to the test. Seeing what works and what doesn’t. That’s also something you really feel when talking to Mark, he’s not on anyone’s payroll. He doesn’t play favourites with any of the materials he uses, “I’m not brand oriented, I don’t get any kickbacks, I don’t promote any one supplier over another, in our opinion, we offer the most reliable products on the market and the solution that will best meet the customers needs now and in the future.”
The proverbial air almost went out of Sun Kissed Energy tires though, after Nova Scotia Power announced their plan to implement a net metering program for next year. It shocked many in the industry, as well as those who were in the process of considering switching to solar now, or in the future. Thankfully however, due to quick work from the Nova Scotia government, they were able to halt Nova Scotia Power from implementing their plans and set customers’ minds at ease. “If the proposed NSP Net Meter changes would have gone through, it really would have killed the industry in Nova Scotia, so we had a few hectic days of trying to get our customer’s applications completed and submitted to grandfather them into the current NSP program. But luckily, our government stepped in.” The Maritimes in general, and Nova Scotia specifically, has seen amazing growth in the solar industry over the past decades. So many businesses have started up in Nova Scotia offering solar solutions because of the growth of the industry in the province. Mark says, “I’m not a politician, I don’t follow too much into that, you know, my main objective here is to eliminate people’s power bills, but it was very encouraging to have Dr. Stephen Ellis, Member of Parliament for Cumberland—Colchester, and Dave Ritcey, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River to reach out to me personally to show their support for my business and the industry as a whole. It was great to see the quick action of Premier Tim Houston, and the provincial government of Nova Scotia along with David Brushett of Solar Nova Scotia and the solar community, show their commitment to solar energy and the development of renewable and sustainable energy, they have given this industry a real and viable chance to flourish in this province.”
Clear, direct communication is another pillar of the business model of Sun Kissed Energy. Listening to Mark talk about his team, and how they spend their time talking to customers, it is clear how important that is to him and his team. What can a customer expect when working with Sun Kissed? Well, they can expect to always be able to get a hold of somebody when needed. Mark adds, “There’s nothing worse than going through a very complex endeavor, and not being able to find the answers or feel comfortable, especially with a large investment.” The average solar system installation is between $20,000 to $30,000, here in Nova Scotia on average and Mark and his team don’t take that investment lightly. Marks was very passionate when he told us, “Our team, and project managers are very committed to our customers. For example, if you look at Brayden Currie, one of my project manager’s phone right now, you will see that every customer is in his phone, which means you can call or text him and he is going to be there for you, its great to have that level of comfort and customer service.”
Mark is a truly humble man, who has such an amazing entrepreneurial spirit, and yet it feels when you’re talking to him, he is often unaware of how exceptional that is. He talks about a drive for excellence, a need to offer the best products and experience for his customers. However, this is not easily done and cannot be accomplished without everyone involved in the solar industry working together, for example, the team at Solar Colchester, Joanna Burris and Sarah Lynds, have been outstanding in the adoption of solar for Colchester residents, efficiency Nova Scotia working hard to provide a provincial rebate, Julian Boyle and staff at PACE have been amazing to work with as well. Overall, our customers feel we all have the same goal – taking control of their utility bill and reducing their carbon footprint.
by Allison McKinnon