Member Q&A: Michael Blazer, Invenergy
Michael Blazer is Senior Vice-President and Chief Legal Officer at Invenergy. He oversees all corporate legal affairs, and is responsible for developing and implementing the company's legal policy in North America and Europe. He was recently featured in our Legal Power List.
In the simplest terms, what does your company do?
Invenergy develops, owns and operates renewable and clean energy projects; including wind, solar, battery storage and a limited number of thermal developments.
Of the cases you’ve worked on personally, which has been your favourite and why?
There’s so many! I don’t have a definitive favourite, but essentially the answer is everything I work on: the development of renewable energy projects overall, including wind, solar and battery storage, with an eye toward the future and the ever-increasing closure of coal plants. So, from the environmental perspective, it’s all a favourite.
Around the world, where do you see the best opportunities right now?
The US obviously, from a renewables perspective, still represents a strong opportunity for us. We’re also looking quite a bit at Mexico, and Central and South America. We’re expanding our scope in East Asia, particularly Japan. Right now, we’re being far more cautious about Europe, because of the situation in Poland, which seems to be an unfortunate trend. As you may know, Spain had a similar situation to Poland, regarding solar energy – a number of treaty arbitrations have arisen out of that. So, we’re looking at where the political winds are blowing before we commit any further resources.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing wind?
Depends on where. In Europe, clearly, it’s the move to the right politically. It’s not just in Poland, it’s in other places as well. And in Poland, that’s combined with the engrained coal industry and the power it has throughout the country. That makes things quite difficult. Additionally, in the Western hemisphere, there’s a bit of a race to the bottom in terms of cost. The cost of renewables has dropped so dramatically and is continuing to drop. It’s simply a question of being economically viable in the market – though this needn’t be viewed as a challenge. The Production Tax Credit is scheduled to end in 2020 – we view this as an opportunity rather than a challenge, so our plans extend well beyond 2020. It will make it more difficult for some developers to finance projects, but we don’t believe it will for us.
What’s your plan for dealing with the phase-out of the credit?
To continue developing renewable energy projects – the only difference will be the financial structure.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career?
Always tell the truth; always respect everyone’s opinions; and never give up.
Do you have a mentor?
Yes I do – his name is Harvey Barnett. He gave me my first job out of law school in 1982. My background, before I got into energy, was in litigation and he was a partner at a boutique litigation firm in Chicago. He taught me how to be a litigator and how to practice law. We’ve known each other now for 36 years – the whole time I’ve been practicing. He taught me how to practice law with a sense of honour and decency. One of the highlights of my career was when I went in-house at Invenergy, a little over 2 years ago, I was able to hire Harvey and his firm to work for us – it came full circle.