Arevon Energy's Asset Management Is at the Top of the League: A Q&A With CEO Justin Johnson
Justin Johnson is the President & CEO of Arevon Energy, Capital Dynamic’s Asset Management affiliate. Previously, Justin was with EDP Renewables for 10-years where he held executive roles in Procurement, Asset Management, Performance Management and Development & Construction. He has 20 years of energy and operations experience and prior to EDPR, he served as an officer in the US Air Force for 7 years in flight test engineering and project management roles.
Tell us about Arevon (a Capital Dynamics affiliate), as it is currently the 2nd largest solar owner in the US.
Arevon provides comprehensive asset management services to owners of utility-scale, industrial, and commercial renewable energy generation assets. We provide tailored solutions that deliver value across the entire life-cycle of developing, constructing, financing, owning, and operating solar, wind, and battery storage projects. Our team of experienced professionals and renewable industry experts includes dedicated development and construction professionals, commercial asset managers, performance engineers, operations managers, and finance and accounting professionals.
As CEO, what achievements have you been most proud of? What can you say has been your greatest success?
Capital Dynamics had been outsourcing all asset management activities prior to my arrival in May 2017. After arriving, and with the help of a couple key employees, we were able to create Arevon and in-source all asset management activities within 6 months. What started as a 5-person team within CapDyn, has now grown into a nearly 50 employee organization that is Arevon.
For those that are interested in entering this growing industry, what advice would give? How did you get your foot in door?
I lucked out when I left the Air Force in 2007 and landed at Horizon Wind Energy which was on the cusp of breaking out from a build-and-flip developer to one of the preeminent wind owners in the US. I would advise people to pursue companies in growing industries. A growth industry creates more opportunities for high achievers to pursue, which becomes more and more important as you advance up your career ladder.
As Arevon is in growth mode with roughly 3,500MWs in solar and wind assets, what projects do you have in the pipeline?
We have several thousand MWs of solar and storage assets in late-stage development or construction that will keep Capital Dynamics at the top of the ownership league tables for years to come.
Tell us about the importance of solar and wind asset management? How does managing solar assets differ from wind?
Every project is built and financed based on a set of assumptions that reside in a financial model. Arevon and other managers like us are particularly important because we bring those assumptions to life. Whether the assumptions are good or bad, the buck stops with asset management, so we must figure out the path forward. Ultimately, if we want our business to be as sustainable as the energy we produce, it’s up to us to figure out how to develop, construct and operate our projects in a way that meets investor expectations. That is what I love so much about what we do. We are in the business of solving problems and creating solutions and much of what we solve is new and unique so there are constant challenges.
What are Arevon’s ESG policies? Why are they important for the company?
We believe responsible investment leads to enhanced long-term financial returns and a closer alignment of objectives amongst investors, stakeholders and society at large. We’ve fully adopted Capital Dynamics’ Responsible Investment policies, and our environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations are at the forefront of our vigilant asset management. We are industry leaders in numerous ESG initiatives and our tireless approach to ESG integration means we are constantly monitoring and reporting to stakeholders and the market alike. As a result of our dedication to Responsible Investment, in 2019 we achieved the number one rated fund in GRESB’s annual ESG survey.
No company has been immune from the impacts of COVID-19. What impact has it had on the renewable energy industry, and what impact has it had on Arevon?
Fortunately, we set up Arevon with tools and resources that allow for remote work, so all our employees are still gainfully employed, and our plants are still producing and selling energy. I continue to have concerns that an extended downturn could result in utility bill delinquencies which would reverberate throughout the industry. I’m hopeful that such a scenario won’t occur, but we remain vigilant and prepared to act if it does.
How has your workforce adapted to working from home?
They’ve been fantastic! I love our staff - we have a team culture with very strong people. We started WFH on Friday, March 13th which was right in the middle of audit season, but the team seamlessly transitioned despite the challenges and ensured we met all our obligations. We have regular Zoom happy hours, but we’re all eager to get back to the office and are hopeful that it will be sooner rather than later.
I love that you’ve sponsored H-1B candidates. How has promoting diversity created a successful culture at Arevon?
Diversity has been at the front of our minds, especially given recent events. We do our best to build an inclusive culture and ensure no bias in our hiring or management of employees. We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any sort. Recent events have made me realize that we need to constantly assess our actions to ensure they’re consistent with our stated goals. As a country, a company and as individuals, we’re on a journey together and only through love and genuine cooperation can we achieve the greatness we desire.
When we last spoke, you mentioned having a very open and collaborative work environment. What is your strategy behind this, and how has it benefited Arevon? Have you encountered any challenges in creating this type of company culture?
Development, construction, and asset management are difficult because there are so many inter-related agreements, obligations, reporting requirements, etc. Many agreements have specific obligations, but there are often less apparent if/then type requirements that require interaction between several Arevon departments to figure out and assess the impact or opportunity. I’m a huge believer of working in teams and co-mingling employees from various departments. We’ve had a number of good catches over the years from employees overhearing unrelated conversions and realizing they had something to contribute from their knowledge in another area.